Freeman Attracts Thousands with Chislic
When the idea first originated, organizers thought the South Dakota Chislic Festival could bring several hundred visitors to the small town of Freeman, located in the heart of South Dakota’s legendary ‘chislic circle.’
It didn’t take long for that idea to explode into a massive first-year event that brought over 8,000 people to town last summer.
“It was beyond our expectations,” says event founder Josh Hofer, Community Development & Marketing Coordinator for the city of Freeman. “People just love chislic, so the event gained a lot of recognition in the media. That really helped it take off. Once we saw the excitement building, we started preparing for numbers in the thousands, but 8,000 was definitely a surprise.”
So how did a small town like Freeman pull off a huge event like the South Dakota Chislic Festival?
Volunteers. Lot and lots of volunteers.
Josh estimates there was a group of 25-30 community volunteers working closely to plan and organize the event, and about 100 people volunteering during the event itself. People of all ages were working as parking attendants, kid zone supervisors, ticket takers, shuttle drivers and more.
After event costs were subtracted, the remainder of the profits were divided between two local nonprofit organizations.
“This event couldn’t have happened without a community full of volunteers,” Josh explains. “People from Freeman and surrounding areas are always awesome about stepping up and doing whatever they can to help.”
Josh says the Chislic Festival is a great example of Freeman’s generous spirit, but that other long-standing fundraisers and charitable events helped pave the way.
Freeman has hosted the Schmekfest for 60 years, which is a large fundraiser for Freeman Academy. Schmekfest raises over $100,000 each year for the academy.
“People donate all kinds of German food and they come from everywhere to enjoy the food, the entertainment, music and fun,” he says. “It has gotten so big that we host it over two consecutive weekends each spring.”
Another example of rural generosity comes from the Bethany Food Pantry in Freeman, which was formed by the Bethany Mennonite Church and serves a large region of people with the help of local donations and volunteers.
With the success of the first South Dakota Chislic Festival under their belts, Freeman is already planning for next year’s event. It will operate as a nonprofit organization and will move to a new venue—the beautiful 40 acre Freeman Prairie Arboretum. The extra space will allow for a better overall experience, which Josh believes will only continue to grow.
“We fully anticipate this to be a destination event across the region, with a huge list of vendors, entertainment options and non-stop chislic,” says Josh. “It’s great to have the people of Freeman behind this. This event is a source of community pride, and it belongs to all of us.”
The video for the 2019 South Dakota Chislic Festival launched on Wednesday, November 21 and can be found here.