SD CHISLIC FESTIVAL RETURNS JULY 29
“Constantly improving since its inaugural event in 2018.”
Those were the words of South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem as she announced the winner of the state’s Peter Norbeck Excellence in Tourism Innovation Award earlier this year.
Saturday, July 29, 2023, will mark the fifth in a series of festivals that have managed to attract state, regional and national media attention while drawing thousands to the small, southeastern South Dakota town of Freeman.
Hosted on the grounds of the 40-acre Freeman Prairie Arboretum, the July 29 event will run from 10 a.m. through 9 p.m. While chislic — the state’s official nosh — is at the center of all the fuss, organizers have prepared for an assortment of food vendors who’ll be serving up other goodies, as well. Festival goers will also find a beer tent, non-food vendors, bingo, beanbag tournaments and a Kid Zone stationed throughout the well-manicured arboretum area.
A great line-up of musical artists are set to take the stage throughout the day, with the Dawson Brooks Sayler Band getting things started at 10 a.m. They’ll be followed by The Man In Black: A Johnny Cash Tribute Band at 12:30. At 3 p.m., the Wild Card Band makes a return appearance on the festival stage. Then, from 5:30 to close, a local favorite, the Rock Hardys — a family band featuring Mark (Rock), Eric, Adam and Steph Hardy — will “get the crowd rockin’!”
Wait. What is chislic and why does it have its own festival?
Generations ago, Germans from Russia settled in the southeastern part of what is now South Dakota. Along with these settlers came traditions that included their favorite foods. Meat, typically mutton or lamb, was cubed, placed on sticks and fried. People in the area have been enjoying variations of this traditional specialty ever since and decided they’d rather not keep it a secret.
More than 8,000 guests showed up in the town of just 1,300 residents for the first South Dakota Chislic Festival. The venue was small. Lines were long and the chislic supply was soon depleted. Thankfully, the South Dakota Chislic Festival has a team of dedicated volunteer organizers. As the Innovation in Tourism Award indicates, these organizers managed to spend the next 10 months planning for a festival that would have plenty of food, plenty of space and no long lines. They wanted everything to be just right for welcoming guests back to town for this annual event.
Other than Covid-19 putting the annual festival on pause in 2020, crowds in attendance for subsequent festivals have found satisfaction, due in part, to an ample supply of chislic, a picture-perfect venue and a variety of activities for the whole family.
Past festivals have included awards for the best chislic. This year, organizers will, instead, be recognizing people who’ve invested their time and talents in making the festival a success.
Admission is free, so plan to make your way to Freeman on the last Saturday of July. Freeman is located along US Highway 81 and is just a 30-minute drive from both interstate highways that pass through South Dakota.
Visit SDChislicFestival.com for more.