New On The Menu

With a new venue, non-profit status and its own app, the South Dakota Chislic Festival is ready to feed and entertain thousands in Freeman this Saturday, July 27, from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

This native South Dakota festival aims to celebrate the traditional cubed, fried meat-on-a-stick dish brought to American by German immigrants from Russia.

This year’s venue is near Freeman Academy at the Freeman Prairie Arboretum, a 40-acre area that can comfortably fit the thousands of attendees expected to attend.

Last year, festival organizers planned for about 2,000 attendees, but soon realized they had far more than that show up. Vendors even ran out of chislic before the end of the six-hour event.

“We knew we had upside potential to 4,000 or 5,000,” said Joshua Hofer, founder and South Dakota Chislic Festival board member. “We ended up getting a solid 8,000, but because I had tickers at the gate, we know we had 10,000 people that either came and went or were in the general area.”

This year’s festival has been built on comments received regarding last year’s event.

“Some of the good feedback we got last year was that, logistically, we were cramped. We were on a softball field and park complex across the road,” Hofer said, “So we will be hosting everything this year at a beautiful arboretum. This venue offered a lot more room. There’s beautiful water, landscaping; it’s really a beautiful place.”

Also, festival hours have been expanded from a half day to a full day, and valet parking will be available.

This year, attendees can expect competitions, food and beverages, educational activities and children’s activities, as well as live entertainment.

Competitions include a 5/10K Mutton Run to benefit the Salem Mennonite Home For the Aged in Freeman, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, a 50/50 raffle and the Bean Bag Lamb Tournament.

Chefs will be participating in a judged competition for the state’s best chislic.

“We are doing two contests,” Hofer said. “The first one is called Classic Sheep because chislic was originally sheep or mutton, and the second one is called New Age Nosh, which is all the other (kinds) competing for a $250 cash prize and a custom trophy.”

Also this year, organizers expect to have at least 10 times more chislic than last year to feed up to 10,000 people, he said.

“As far as chislic varieties, there’s going to be lamb, mutton, pork, beef and goat chislic to try at the festival, and then your cheese curds and everything else you could hope to look for,” Hofer said. “We have all South Dakota chislic vendors, so we don’t have anybody coming from out of state, and we have South Dakota craft beers.”

In addition to chislic, food offerings will include barbecue and traditional festival fare as well. Due to popular demand, domestic beer will also be served, he noted.

Various educational presentations — including titles such as “Not Your Daddy’s Chislic” — are schedule throughout the day at the Heritage Hall Museum.

“It’s a museum committed to the preservation of the Germans-from-Russia story, which happens to also be the chislic story,” Hofer said. “This is a dish, shashlik, that was basically encountered by the Germans as emigres to Russia in the Ukraine and brought over to South Dakota, and that’s how we got chislic.”

Children’s activities include laser tag, face painting and a petting zoo.

Live music begins at noon on the Prairie Rose Amphitheater stage within view of the arboretum and includes music from Kings of Oblivion, Rock Garden Tour and Mogen’s Heroes.

One way to keep track of events and activities at the festival is to download the SD Chislic Festival smartphone app from the Apple or Play Store.

“It will be a fantastic resource for anyone coming to the festival,” Hofer said. “We are talking maps, event schedules; the whole rigamarole will all be accessible through the app.”

Among other things, the app lists vendors, takes comments and allows you to create an account to save a list of the activities and events in which you wish to participate.

“At its core, this event celebrates food; it celebrates art; it celebrates agriculture in a way that we can all celebrate as South Dakotans,” Hofer said. “It feels good to celebrate our state nosh. It’s instinctually Dakotan and no other state or region has the claim that we do.”

For more information go to or check out the South Dakota Chislic Festival Facebook page or download the SD Chislic Festival app. Attendees are encouraged to bring folding camp seats.

Follow @CoraVanOlson on Twitter.

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