EDITORIAL: A LETTER TO OUR SCHMECKFEST GUESTS
Dear Schmeckfest guests,
If this is your first time to Freeman, welcome! If you’re coming in for a repeat visit, welcome back!
This particular moment in time — the return of Schmeckfest — is something we’ve all been looking forward to for a while. As you know, the coronavirus pandemic that we were all trying to figure out beginning in March of 2020 raised havoc on our ways of life, and one of the earliest impacts here in the Freeman community was the cancelation of Schmeckfest. That June, I did an interview with a colleague named Teri Finneman, who is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas and a recorder of oral history, for a project she was conducting called Community Journalism in Middle America Challenges and Innovations of COVID-19 Coverage Oral History. One of the questions she asked me was, “Looking back, what have been some of the biggest stories that you’ve covered related to the pandemic?” My response:
“Well, the, the biggest was the cancelation of Schmeckfest. I mean, I can’t explain to you what a big deal that was in our town. I hesitate to compare it to the cancelation of the NBA season because we’re talking apples to oranges there. But, locally that’s not far off. This festival, it was founded in 1959, it’s been held every year since, 5,000 people come to this town. It’s a major fundraiser for a local private school … it’s as big as Christmas in this town. People say that every year. In fact, some people think it’s bigger than Christmas.
“For them not to have Schmeckfest is like the NBA canceling the rest of its season here in town and for the people who come back for it. And so, that was a major, major story out of the gate, what kind of impact that had on the school, what kind of impact that had on the town, what kind of an impact that, that had on, on the people who had prepared for it.”
When I gave that interview on June 18, 2020, I had no idea that, not only would that year’s festival be canceled, but that the following two would be nixed, as well. Per my interview with Finneman, if the cancelation of one Schmeckfest was a big deal, how big of a deal was the cancelation of three?
Looking back on it all, it feels strange, and the fact that our big little festival is set to return this Friday and Saturday seems surreal. Yet here we are, a school and a community eager to open up our doors and offer an enthusiastic, “Come on in!”
One of the things that makes Schmeckfest so special is that it is a vessel filled by friendships and fellowship, and the gathering of men, women and children from hither and yon is energizing. If you are in Freeman for Schmeckfest this year, you are part of that exhilarating conglomerative.
This festival reflects the best of what we do and who we are. We are extroverted and welcoming. Hard-working and hospitable. Humble yet proud. Our heritage matters a great deal to us, and we feel our customs and traditions are worth sharing. The “Festival of Tasting” allows us to do that — to continue to do that on the backside of a worldwide pandemic that, three years ago, was freaking us all out.
Schmeckfest is a great gathering we missed dearly here in the Freeman community, and are thrilled to be able to finally bring it back. And we sincerely hope you enjoy, not only Schmeckfest itself, but our community, as well. Freeman is a special place, with great schools, businesses, medical facilities, organizations and opportunities. We feel much bigger than our population of 1,329 (2022 census), probably because we are. Hundreds of people who live in the outlying area call Freeman home and treat it as such, thus contributing to the collective whatever happens to be happening.
In this case, the happening is Schmeckfest and we couldn’t be happier.
On behalf of the entire Freeman community, we sincerely hope you enjoy your time here and come back soon. And if you would like to know more about our little village here in Southeastern South Dakota, Google Freeman, South Dakota.
In the meantime, Schmeck on!
Because we sure are.
Editor & Publisher