Freeman's Chislic Festival gears up for round two

An estimated crowd of 8,000 people attended the inaugural South Dakota Chislic Festival in 2018 in Freeman. (Abbie Lambert / Republic)

FREEMAN — A popular event coming back for its second year of production in efforts to make the food arts of South Dakota great is the South Dakota Chislic Festival.

In a significant change from last year, the event is shifting venues and will now be at the 40-acre Prairie Arboretum on the grounds of Freeman Academy school in Freeman. The event runs all day Saturday.

“After planning for 1,500 to 2,000 people, and having at least 8,000 attendees in less than four hours, we heard the message loud and clear; more room, more chislic, more -- frankly, of everything,” said Joshua Hofer, who the South Dakota Chislic Festival’s Executive Director.

The shift in venues allows a larger ground to work with, creating more room for chislic booths, craft beers, tents, and entertainment. The chislic booths will provide meat from goat, sheep, beef, deer, and buffalo, each of them cubed and fried and served on skewers.

“People saw what we put together in 45 days last year,” Hofer said. “Now they are going to see what we can do in 12 months.”


More than 50 vendors are planned, and organizers are promising 10 times as much chislic on hand, plus numerous beer and beverage vendors. Chislic will be available starting at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Chislic grilling competitions will return as a main attraction for participants to claim the title of South Dakota’s best chislic. This year’s chislic vendors will compete in two categories, “Classic Sheep” and “New Age Nosh.” Winners of each competition will receive $250 and a custom-designed trophy.

Aside from the chislic eating and judging, a much bigger schedule is planned around other events on Saturday, starting with a “Mutton Run” event at 7:30 a.m. There’s also events geared toward kids, laser tag, 3-on-3 basketball, and a petting zoo at the nearby Heritage Hall museum. The museum will have historical presentations and demonstrations on chislic.

Also returning will be bean bag tournaments, with two divisions of competition and a cash payout for winners.

Music from Kings of Oblivion, Rock Garden Tour and Mogen’s Heroes will play at the Prairie Arboretum from noon to 8 p.m. Downtown, a Main Street Marketplace is planned to show off Freeman’s downtown shopping options. A trolley will run between the two sites to transport visitors. The day will end with the local band Uncle Roy and the Boys at Hootz Bar in downtown Freeman playing from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

In all, Hofer said there are more than 100 people involved in the organization of the event. The idea for the event came about in late 2017, and now had a full year of planning ahead of the 2019 edition.

“I believe this event to be a great push for food arts and ag tourism in the region,” Hofer said, who has also been involved with Freeman’s community development efforts.

“I think small communities need to find their story, and this is definitely Freeman’s,” Hofer added. “I would say this is one of the most unique rural festivals that you can enjoy some delicious food special to South Dakota.”


At the 2018 South Dakota Chislic Festival, winners of the tasting award categories were given custom-crafted trophies. Plans for similar awards are in the works for the 2019 event. (Abbie Lambert / Republic)

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