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Chislic festival has South Dakota town bursting with popularity

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

FREEMAN, S.D. — The South Dakota Chislic Festival got big. In a hurry.

Last year in its debut, four times the amount of people showed up for the state-famous cubed meats than what organizers had planned for.

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, July 27.

“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 is 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.

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“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.

Freeman is about 50 miles southwest of Sioux Falls.

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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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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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