Chislic Reigns Supreme as Southeast South Dakota Congregates in Freeman

Last Updated by Heather Benson on

The stakes were high for the second annual South Dakota Chislic Festival in Freeman--After a blockbuster first year which saw the small town of only 1,200 play host to over 5,000, the pressure was on to enlarge the space and the overall event to accommodate the hordes who would descend to celebrate South Dakota's official state nosh.  A move to the 40-acre Prairie Arboretum on the campus of Freeman Academy and a concerted effort by event organizers to procure over 100,000 sticks of sheep resulted in a resoundingly successful event that doubled in size to an estimated 8,000-10,000 in only its second year.


67371975_10162145678445381_3028212132798791680_o.jpgThe Prairie Aboretum was the site of this year's festival.


Representing SDPB, I returned as a second-year judge for the competition portion of the day.  A native of the "chislic circle", I come by my chislic knowledge through both heritage and life experience: Outside my job as social media manager for SDPB, I own a small farm north of Vermillion where my husband and I raise Icelandic sheep to mow the lawn and fill the freezer.  Some in our office might say my passion for chislic can go a bit overboard (yes, that's me wearing a button I made that says "chislic evangelist" and I have spent a fair amount of time lobbying for SDPB to do a chislic "documentary") and yet when Senate Bill 96 (making chislic our official state nosh) passed last year in Pierre, SDPB videographers at the Statehouse were the first to text me photos of the vote screen.  I know that deep down they love chislic as much as I do.

Floor Debate for SB 96

67587949_10162144585050381_3884213146549747712_o.jpgThe author's "pieces of flair".

The festival offered two categories of competition: Classic Chislic, which was required to be the traditonal lamb or mutton (aged sheep) or New Age Nosh, which according to event organizers could be made from any meat so long as it could reasonably be raised in South Dakota (sorry alligator farmers).  Judges were asked to blind taste test ten entries and score them on a metric that measured appearance, taste and texture.  

67372071_10162145679795381_4973988903804469248_o.jpgThe author (bottom right) and her fellow judges for the 2019 Festival.

My fellow judges included State Senator Stace Nelson, who represents the Freeman area and was a primary sponsor of the bill that would make meat on a stick our state "nosh". Also judging was Nebraska-native Ian Tuttle, who was there as both a judge and as a presenter on shashlik, the Caucasus-region food that is considered the originator of South Dakota's chislic.  Dressed in the traditional garb of the Caucasus region, he made quite the statement both figuratively and literally when it came to meats on a stick.


Chislic's Relationship to Shasklik Explainer:

Runners brought unmarked baskets of hot and ready meats on a stick, leaving us to decide on the rankings. My 7-year-old daughter had tagged along for what probably ranks as the best "take your daughter to work day" on record and she took her adjunct judge duties very seriously indeed--commenting on the presence (or lack thereof) of the traditional chislic "spices" of garlic and celery salt, absence of soda crackers (traditional chislic side dish) and being as relieved as I was that nobody presented their chislic on a fancy bed of kale this year (chislic is a simple food and should always be presented as such is our mantra).  As the empty chislic baskets piled up, the judge's table was a silent, serious place with little being said outside "let me try another" and "more water please".  

67575960_10162145679155381_7131112923727921152_o.jpgChislic judging is a serious business indeed!

67358623_10162145679065381_2584695676461907968_o.jpgThe remains of the day of chislic judging.

Ultimately, the family team of SSS Chislic took home the trophy Classic category and the Armour Fire Department garnered honors with their pork version in New Age Nosh. But the real winner was the town of Freeman which successfully brought off what can now be ranked as one of the largest single-day celebrations in the state.  A mantra I have long lived by is "It becomes a big deal if you believe it to be one and make it so" (something that can hold true for both good and bad things) and Freeman has firmly made chislic and the celebration thereof a very big deal for southeastern South Dakota.  Kudos to a job well done.

67656542_10162145679855381_884540388533075968_o.jpgSSS Chislic won the Classic Chislic category.

67275550_10162145679995381_8377274186896244736_o.jpgThe Armour Fire Department took the New Age Nosh category.



subscribe to sdpb email updates food blog link image learning blog link image living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Related content from SDPB Radio - Art

The Enduring Simplicity (And Complexity) Of Michael Hall

In The Moment ... September 20. 2018 Show 426 Hour 2 Michael Hall writes picture books that delight and endure. He's...

Art That Takes You Home

In The Moment ... July 18, 2018 Show 381 Hour 2 Jon Crane creates "Art that Takes You Home." After a tour at...

Renowned Artists Visit Oscar Howe Summer Art Institute

In The Moment ... June 19, 2018 Show 361 Hour 2 Art can be meditation, expression, activism, and escape. It can also...

Eagle Butte Artists Learn Tips To Flourish

Artists who turn their passion into a business venture can find it a challenge. They need to figure out the details...


The Multiple Hearts Of Laura Geringer Bass

In The Moment ... September 20. 2018 Show 426 Hour 2 When 13 year-old Briana's dad dies suddenly, she is faced with...

Read, Baby, Read: What's America's Best-Loved Novel?

In The Moment ... May 22, 2018 Show 342 Hour 1 What's America's best-loved novel? You get to decide. PBS launches...

Author Kirk Wallace Johnson's "The Feather Thief"

In the Moment ... May 1, 2018 Show 327 Hour 1 The centuries-old art of salmon fishing fly-tying has a dark side. It...

Jane Yolen Celebrates #Yolen365 And Counting

In The Moment ... April 26, 2018 Show 324 Hour 1 In March, author Jane Yolen released her 365th book. That means you...


Matthews Opera House Season Preview

In The Moment ... September 26. 2018 Show 430 Hour 2 The Matthews Opera House subscription concert series begins...

Fun Approach To Music Theory

Andrew Rogers – in home music lessons designed for children and young adults. Uses a unique teaching style that...

The Literary Style of Reina del Cid

Reina del Cid kicks off her summer tour with a stop in Sioux Falls at the Icon Lounge. She joins SDPB's Lori Walsh...

Eric Johnson Returns For Black Hills Playhouse Opener

In The Moment ... May 29, 2018 Show 346 Hour 2 Leave the ordinary behind at this year's Black Hills Playhouse Season...


Broadway Choreographer Chet Walker

In the Moment ... April 9, 2018 Show 311 Hour 1 The University of South Dakota Theater Department presents "Cabaret"...

Images of the Past: Stage To Screen

In The Moment ... November 27, 2017 Show 227 Hour 2 A new exhibit at the Old Courthouse Museum tells the story of...

Personalities: From Huron High to Broadway

Singer, actor, and teacher Joseph Mahowald graduated from Huron High School in 1977. He went on to study music and...

In The Moment ... Alex Meyer's Scenic Design

In The Moment ... May 10, 2017 Show 090 Hour 2 Alex Meyer. He's a junior art and theater major at Augustana College...