Northern Mariana Islands — Festivals and Events
Most of the vast array of Northern Mariana Islands festivals may take place in Saipan, but even the smallest of villages throw their own annual lively fiestas to honor each of their patron saints. The Marianas Cup Beach Volleyball Festival and Mahi Fishing Derby are just two of the exciting sporting events this tropical island hosts during all 12 months of the year. Bright red flame trees blossoms over Saipan during April’s Flame Tree Arts Festival.
Tinian Hot Pepper Festival
The biggest festival on the tiny island of Tinian takes place during two February days on Tachogna Beach. Many of the most talented singers on the Northern Mariana Islands entertain the visitors, who can sample homemade dishes prepared by some of Tinian’s most gifted cooks. The festival’s highlight is the hot pepper eating competition where participants battle to see who can best handle Tinian’s famous donni sali hot peppers. The Katdun Pika Cooking Competition awards prizes to the cooks who prepare the most delicious dishes using this unique ingredient.
Marianas Cup Beach Volleyball Festival
No Micronesian beach volleyball event has been held for more consecutive years than this February competition between some of the world’s finest beach volleyball players. Professional and amateur beach volleyball players arrive from throughout the United States, South Korea, Japan, and as far away as Italy. The event also features exhibition matches, beach volleyball clinics, and raffle tickets.
Sweet Potato Festival
This Rota festival may rank among the most recent on the Northern Mariana Islands, but it already ranks among the island’s most popular events. San Isidro Fiesta, a celebration of Sinapalo’s patron saint, coincides with this four-day mid-March festival for the sweet potato. Visitors can attend a two-day workshop on the care and growing of this humble vegetable or watch a cooking competition determining the tastiest sweet potato dishes on the island.
Marianas Winds Kite Festival & Cultural Food Fair
The central ball field at the American Memorial Park is the location of this celebration of food and kites held each March. There are three categories purchased kites can win, three categories for handmade kites, and two more awards both purchased and handmade kites can win. All competing kites must remain in the air for at least five minutes. The festival also features face painting, carnival games, and plenty of food.
Mahi Fishing Derby
The Saipan Fishermen’s Association sponsors this Saturday annual fishing competition held in mid-April. Each year, more than 100 fishers depart from Smiling Cove Marina in about 30 to 40 boats on early Saturday morning, returning with their catches in early evening. Anglers come from throughout Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands to win prizes in up to five different categories.
Annual Flame Tree Arts Festival
This three-day Sususpe Civic Center beachfront festival centers around the bright red flame trees in full blossom around Saipan in late April. This festival is also a showcase of the best Northern Mariana Islands dance troupes, musicians, visual artists, and food vendors.
Taste of the Marianas International Food Festival and Beer Garden
Each May, Saipan’s American Memorial Park hosts this popular food and drink festival for three Saturday evenings in a row. In addition to the wide array of food Saipan’s leading hotels and restaurants prepare for the occasion, the festival also features bartending and cooking competitions as well as music from performers from across Saipan and the world.
Christmas in the Marianas
On the Northern Mariana Islands, Christmas is a month-long celebration beginning on December 1, when a huge Christmas tree with beautiful lights is unveiled along the Paseo de Marianas. Schoolchildren take part in costume and float competitions. Tents are set up for games, food, and entertainment each Saturday leading up to Christmas. A mochitsuki festival dedicated to Japanese rice cakes is also held on December 22.