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Schmeckfest (festival of tasting) is an annual four-day festival in Freeman, South Dakota, that celebrates the heritage and culture of Mennonites, an ethnic group of Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites from the Russian Empire, who emigrated to North America starting in the 1870s. Established in 1959, Schmeckfest showcases the traditional foods, crafts and talents of the Freeman community with Mennonite food, demonstrations, displays, programs and a full-stage musical theater production.[1][failed verification] Schmeckfest has been held every spring since and has grown to accommodate more than 5,000 guests every year. The event is held at Freeman Academy, a grade 1 to 12 private school, and raises about $90,000 annually for the school.[2][failed verification]

A multi-course meal and a musical — The Boy Friend in 2019, (Godspell in 2018,Brigadoon in 2017, The Music Man in 2016, Big River in 2015, Children of Eden in 2014, Fiddler on the Roof in 2013, for example — are the main fundraising events. The festival also includes displays, programs, demonstrations and sales of ethnic handcrafts and culinary arts. In recent years, Heritage Hall Museum and Archives, located adjacent to the Freeman Academy campus, offers historical presentations during Schmeckfest.

The 62nd annual festival was scheduled March 20–21, 27–28, 2020 with Matilda the Musical as the community theater musical production. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was first postponed and then cancelled; those dates deferred to 19–20, 26–27 March 2021, but no musical. It is the first time in history that the festival was cancelled. The 2022 festival is scheduled March 18–19, 25–26, which will be the 63rd. It has been drive-thrus since 2021.

The Schmeckfest meal was served buffet style in the early years before switching to family style in 1965.[citation needed] In 2018, buffet-style serving returned for the 60th Schmeckfest, which is part of an emphasis on the historic nature of the 2018 observance and continues as the dining format.[citation needed]

Schmeckfest officials told the Freeman Courier, the weekly newspaper in Freeman, the 50th anniversary in 2008 was the most successful Schmeckfest to date, with more than 6,000 guests visiting the Freeman Academy campus.[citation needed] Following the 2015 Schmeckest, officials told the Courier the festival is continuing to grow in popularity.[3][failed verification]

A book on the 60-year history of Schmeckfest was published in 2018. "Schmeckfest at 60" is a 252-page hardcover book that includes a comprehensive look at the festival and more the 150 photos and illustrations. It was published by Second Century Publishing Inc., of Freeman which also publishes the Freeman Courier. Copies are available for sale at the Courier office in downtown Freeman.

German English
Nudel Suppe Noodle Soup
Grune Schauble Suppe Green Bean Soup
Danpfleisch Stewed Beef
Bratwurst Pork Sausage
Gebratene Kartoffeln Fried Potatoes
Käse mit Knöpfle Cheese Buttons
Salat Lettuce Salad
Geschmacke Relishes
Zwieback Twin Buns
Schwarzbrötchen Whole Wheat Buns
Pluma Moos Dried Fruit Sauce
Kuchen Mach Kuchen Poppy Seed Rolls
Kaffee Coffee


"South Dakota Mennonite College" was founded in 1900, and three years later, classes began in "The College" building (today's "Music Hall"), located one-quarter mile south of the downtown area of Freeman, S.D. Today, Freeman Academy is a private Christian school for grades 1-12, which offers students a strong academic program with an emphasis in faith and the arts.

The first Schmeckfest was Friday, March 13, 1959. The German "tasting festival" was served buffet style in the basement of Pioneer Hall in Freeman, SD. All guests were encouraged to "take all you want, but eat all you take". The cost of meal tickets was one dollar for adults and fifty cents for grade school children. Preschool-aged kids ate free. Serving began at 5:00 p.m. followed at 7:00 by a "period of relaxation with recorded German music" and a talent program. The popularity of that first festival exceeded expectations; many people were disappointed to learn the food was gone by the time they arrived. But the organizers, the Freeman Junior College Women's Auxiliary, saw the interest in the event and the potential it offered. The second Schmeckfest was held in 1960 and the festival became an annual event.

Since then Schmeckfest has expanded to two days, then to three days and now to four days — two days for two consecutive weekends in March or April.

1959 Food 2008
4 gal. Green Bean Soup 48 gal.
None Noodle Soup 48 gal.
None Pigs-in-a-blanket None
None Pig's Stomach None
None Pork Sausage 300 lbs.
90 lbs. Stewed Beef 500 lbs.
None Hamburger in Dough Pockets None
None Fried Potatoes 260 lbs.
None Potato Pancakes None
None Bean-Filled Pockets None
None Dried Beans None
None Cheese Buttons 24 gal.
7 gal. Sauerkraut 34 gal.
5 gal. Relishes None
20 loaves Rye Bread None
62.5 doz. Twin Buns 80 doz.
None Russian Pancakes None
10 gal. Dried Fruit Sauce 32 gal.
None Fruit Rolls None
None Poppyseed & Wheat Sauce None
800 Cookies New Year's Cookies None
25 rolls Poppyseed Rolls 55 rolls
60 cakes Coffee Cake None
None Kuchen 150 pies
1.3 lbs. Coffee 48 lbs.

Productions at Schmeckfest -
The Red Mill - 1967
Twilight Auction - 1968
Do You Remember? - 1969
The Mikado - 1970
Plain and Fancy - 1971
Fiddler on the Roof - 1972
Oklahoma! - 1973
The Student Prince - 1974
The Sound of Music - 1975
Hello Dolly - 1976
The Gondoliers - 1977
Family Reunion - 1978
The Music Man - 1979
The King and I - 1980
Pirates of Penzance - 1981
Plain and Fancy - 1982
Oliver! - 1983
Camelot - 1984
Shenandoah - 1985
100* in the Shade - 1986
Fiddler on the Roof -1987
H.M.S. Pinafore - 1988
Brigadoon - 1989
Kiss Me, Kate - 1990
The Sound of Music - 1991
Big River - 1992
My Fair Lady - 1993
Oklahoma! - 1994
Anything Goes - 1995
The Music Man - 1996
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - 1997
Annie - 1998
Pirates of Penzance - 1999
Hello, Dolly! - 2000
The Secret Garden - 2001
Carousel - 2002
Oliver! - 2003
Lucky Stiff - 2004
Guys & Dolls - 2005
Cinderella - 2006
The Pajama Game - 2007
The Sound of Music - 2008
Into the Woods - 2009
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat- 2010
Kiss Me, Kate - 2011
The Wizard of Oz - 2012
Fiddler on the Roof - 2013
Children of Eden - 2014
Big River - 2015
The Music Man - 2016
Brigadoon - 2017
Godspell - 2018
The Boy Friend - 2019


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°20′49″N 97°26′19″W / 43.34694°N 97.43861°W / 43.34694; -97.43861