South Dakota Chislic Festival Honored for Excellence in Tourism

In July of 2018, the City of Freeman (population 1,300) was inundated with more than 8,000 guests eager to take in the very first South Dakota Chislic Festival.

The crowd quickly overwhelmed the ballpark venue and consumed the limited amount of chislic on hand.

Fast forward to 2019 and organizers were ready. Having relocated to the 40-acre Freeman Prairie Arboretum, the new arrangements also included big increases in both food and infrastructure. Following a break due to COVID in 2020, the festival continued on a successful path when it returned in 2021 and 2022. Average crowd size for each day-long festival was estimated at 10,000.

The intentional and strategic efforts of festival organizers did not go unnoticed. As the 2023 South Dakota Governor’s Conference on Tourism concluded on January 19, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem announced the South Dakota Chislic Festival as the winner of the Peter Norbeck Excellence in Tourism Innovation award. Both festival organizers and the City of Freeman we commended as part of the recognition.

State tourism officials noted that what started as a small festival to celebrate South Dakota and its cultural heritage has become a huge success. The event has garnered state, regional and national attention, growing in size every year and drawing visitors to the small community of Freeman to experience chislic, the state’s official nosh.

Pictured from left to right upon announcement of the award are Wanda Goodman, Deputy Secretary of Tourism; Abby Streyle, SD Chislic Festival; Carol Eisenbeis, City of Freeman; Jay Hofer, SD Chislic Festival; Andrea Baer, SD Chislic Festival; and SD Governor Kristi Noem.

Baer and Hofer were involved as part of the implementation team when Josh Hofer initiated plans for the inaugural festival in 2018. Festival organizers are to be congratulated, yet they are also quick to credit the involvement of a team of more than 300 volunteers for the success. Musical entertainment, a variety of food and retail vendors, bean bags, kids’ activities, beer, and – of course – chislic are all available for festival-goers to enjoy.

The 2023 South Dakota Chislic Festival will take place on July 29 – the last Saturday of July – at the 40-acre Freeman Prairie Arboretum. Admission is free.

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