By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Saipan – While still hard-pressed to see the recovery of its tourism industry, the Northern Marianas is hoping to draw hundreds of local and international visitors to Tinian for its signature Hot Pepper Festival in February.
Also known as "Pika Fest," Tinian's two-decade-old iconic event will be held on Feb. 16 and 17, featuring “donni’ sali” hot pepper, which the island is famous for.
“The beautiful island of Tinian is perfect to visit at any time of the year, but the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival – along with the annual San Jose fiesta, Chief Taga Festival, and Tinian Beef, Beer, & Beefs Festival – has to be one of the best times,” said Christopher A. Concepcion, MVA managing director.
Activities will include food sales, live entertainment, competitions, arts and crafts sales.
“Imagine a huge family party that the whole island is invited to, that’s Pika Fest. Island food and drinks, dances and other live performances, friendly people, a stunning beach backdrop add a taste of donni’ sali and a weekend in Tinian will be seared into the memory forever – in a good way," Concepcion said.
The event is organized by the MVA in cooperation with the Office of the Mayor of Tinian and Aguiguan and will once again be held at the Fiesta Grounds in San Jose, Tinian, adjacent to the picturesque Jones Beach and House of Taga, a U.S. National Historic Landmark featuring limestone monoliths carved by ancient Chamorros.
“I am thrilled that we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the highly anticipated Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, as this momentous occasion brings together our community and visitors across the Marianas Archipelago,” Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan said.
“For two decades now, the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, known to many of us as the ‘Pika Festival’ continues to showcase the unique and vibrant flavors of our locally grown hot peppers. The festival has become a beloved tradition, embracing a fusion of culinary arts, entertainment, and community spirit. It is a testament to the resilience and creativity of our people," he added.
Free camping is available at Jones Beach, Taga Beach (toilets, barbecue pits, and outdoor showers available) and at the adjacent Tachogna Beach (barbecue pits, outdoor showers, and toilets are available).
With a population of about 3,540, Tinian is a quiet island with pristine and secluded beaches and prehistoric Taga stones that are relics of the ancient palace built by the Chamorro Chief Taga over 3,000 years ago.
While it attracts scuba divers, the island is also a famous destination for history buffs.
During World War II, Tinian was used by the U.S. Navy as an airbase. Plaques in the abandoned runways in North Field mark the pits where the Enola Gay and Bockscar planes were loaded with atomic bombs before heading off to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.