CHISLIC ON DECK; THIRD FESTIVAL COMING SATURDAY
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
One year ago, on the last Saturday of July, the Freeman Prairie Arboretum was quiet.
The sprawling, 40-acre grounds located on the southwestern portion of Freeman was supposed to be alive with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the third annual South Dakota Chislic Festival but, like many other things, the 2020 event was canceled because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus and the spread of COVID-19.
But now, one year later, organizers of the chislic festival are hoping — and, in fact, expecting — that this coming Saturday will flip the script from the quiet of a year ago.
“Everybody’s got cabin fever,” said Jay Hofer, president of the South Dakota Chislic Festival’s board of directors which has spent months preparing for the July 31 event. “Everybody wants to get out of the house, so we’re expecting a big crowd.”
Just how big is the question.
“We still don’t know what that baseline is,” he said.
However, Hofer said that in talking with incoming vendors who have attended other events this spring and summer, organizers have learned that attendance has been up by anywhere from 20 to 40% over other years.
“I think 8,000 is a pretty realistic number,” Hofer said of the expectation for Saturday. “But by the way people are hanging out, I wouldn’t be surprised by 10,000.”
The 2021 South Dakota Chislic festival will be the third of its kind and run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Making it an all-day affair, and using the large greenspaces that the arboretum affords, is one of the key changes from the inaugural festival of 2018, when thousands of guests clogged Freeman’s softball park and backed up traffic for miles.
“We had four hours and all those people came at the same time,” he said. “That’s what caused the bottleneck and other problems.”
The move to the arboretum in 2019 was a game changer.
“We’re still learning,” Hofer said, “but one thing we know is that the Prairie Arobretum is the right venue for this festival. The layout, the space is perfect. It’s better for the vendors, for crowd control, and people can spread out.
Not only is the arboretum the right fit for the activities of the day — food and drink, non-food and drink vendors, music, a kid zone and general enjoyment on a summer day — but it also exposes one of Freeman’s gems to those who would otherwise know nothing about it.
“I was surprised how many people (in 2019) said they never knew that existed,” Hofer said. “There were even people from Freeman who had never been out there before. I have co-workers from Marion who never knew it existed and said they would come out more. It really puts that on the map.”
There are several parking options for those attending. The parking lot west of Heritage Hall Museum and Archives will be available, as will the lot north of Pioneer Hall. Parking will also be available at Freeman Public Schools several blocks to the east, with trolley service running to and from throughout the day.
Heritage Hall Museum is also offering premier parking east of its complex immediately north of the arboretum grounds. Those interested in purchasing a parking pass should call 605-925-7545 or stop by the museum, which is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
And, of course, street parking is available throughout Freeman.
“I know, last time, a lot of people just parked somewhere in town and just walked,” said Hofer.
Much of this year’s festival will mirror the festival of 2019. The primary artery for the food vendors will be east of the interpretive center on the northern line of the arboretum grounds.
All beer will be served underneath a large white tent nearby. This year, the Freeman Volunteer Fire Department is involved and will be selling all the domestic varieties. Ben’s Brewing of Yankton is charged with the craft beers and will have several available on tap, including a recipe he made exclusively for this year’s chislic festival called Slic.
The Prairie Rose Amphitheater is located near the food and beer sales and will be the venue for five musical acts beginning at 10:30 a.m. and concluding with the headliner, Mogens Heroes taking the stage at 6:30 p.m.
There will be a bean bag tournament on arboretum grounds, helicopter rides located near the corner of Cedar and Seventh streets just northwest of the Pioneer Hall parking lot, and non-food vendors and a Kid Zone operated by the First Church of God of Marion west of the interpretive center.
There will also be special programming at Heritage Hall Museum and Archives relevant to chislic; see the news release printed on the opposite page.
And, as was the case in both 2018 and 2019, there will be a judged competition to determine whose chislic is the best.
“I’m really looking for things to go smoothly,” said Hofer. “So many people have put in so much time, a lot of research and used a lot of resources that will hopefully result in a huge, successful festival.”
And his message to the community?
“Come out and enjoy the festival,” Hofer said. “There are a lot of people who put in a lot of work. Come on out and reward them with your presence. We’re bringing a lot of people to Freeman; helping put Freeman on the map, so just enjoy the day.”
Admission is free and the festival is made possible thanks to the following sponsors:
Platinum: Merchants State Bank
Gold: CorTrust Bank and Hootz
Silver: Freeman Dental Center, Ben’s Brewing, S&S Ag Supply, Waltner Media + Studios, Knodel Contractors, Dakota Entertainment, Optimize Electric and Glanzer Pro Audio
Bronze: Jamboree Foods, Great Western Bank, US Foods, Insurance Services, Fensel’s Garden Center and Gift Shop, Lions International, East River Furniture, Priority Investment Services, JH Diesel and Ag Repair, Valley Electric and Modern Woodmen.
For a detailed schedule of the day, see the front page of the second section. Additional information is also available at sdchislicfestival.com.