Red Ants Pants Music Festival postponed for a year
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Red Ants Pants Music Festival postponed for a year

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Suzy Bogguss

Country artist Suzy Bogguss (center) performs with her band during the 2019 Red Ants Pants music festival in White Sulphur Springs. The four-day festival has been postponed until 2021 due to concerns of COVID-19. 

Red Ants Pants Music Festival will not take place this summer. Festival founder Sarah Calhoun cited concerns for public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic as her reason for rescheduling to 2021 the annual music festival, which brings upward of 18,000 people to White Sulphur Springs.

“It’s heartbreaking to have to cancel,” said Calhoun, who produces the yearly event. “If we can’t guarantee that our fans and community and artists and staff and vendors and volunteers will be safe, then we can’t hold a festival.”

The event, now scheduled for July 22-25, 2021, was poised to celebrate a decade of bringing live music to a cow pasture just west of White Sulphur Springs. It is the first festival of its size in Montana to postpone for a year due to COVID-19.

2019 Red Ants Pants Music Festival

Valerie June of Memphis is seen performing during the 2019 Red Ants Pants music festival in White Sulphur Springs. The four-day festival has been postponed until 2021 due to concerns of COVID-19. 

Calhoun described the lineup, which was set to be announced later this week, as a reunion featuring bands from the past 10 years. She has been able to reschedule many acts for the following year, but who’s playing will remain a secret until then. Earlier in March, the side stage lineup was announced, featuring many Montana artists, and those bands will also be offered a spot in 2021.

Public health and safety was the primary reason for rescheduling the event, but compounding issues related to COVID-19, including traveling state-to-state and Canadian bands crossing the border, made it difficult to confirm the festival this year.

“At this time there are so many unknowns,” Calhoun said. “I realize it feels like a ways out. We just don’t know what is going to happen. I can’t personally live with knowing that our gathering continued on with the virus spread.”

Sarah Calhoun

SARAH CALHOUN

In 2018, the festival was named Event of the Year by the Montana Office of Tourism, and has been a major economic driver for White Sulphur Springs, population 900.

“From the stage company, to sound guys, to artists, there is going to be a major economic shift, which is painful for all of us, but when it comes down to it, the most important thing is human life,” Calhoun stressed.

Red Ants Pants Music Festival is named for the apparel company founded by Calhoun, which focuses on work wear designed for women and manufactured in the U.S.

Calhoun is in talks with manufacturers to pivot her team’s focus from the festival to creating personal protective equipment for workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. She’s in talks with state agencies and Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, among others, for next steps for sourcing fabrics and sewing gowns for healthcare workers.

“We have such a strong leadership team. It makes sense to use our resources to pitch in and help with this disaster,” Calhoun said.

RAP Street Dance

The 2019 Red Ants Pants Music Festival kicks off with a street dance. The four-day festival has been postponed until 2021 due to concerns of COVID-19. 

The festival is also the primary fundraiser for Red Ants Pants Foundation, which has gifted more than $110,000 from festival proceeds to rural communities, working family farms and ranches, and to programs and projects that increase women’s leadership.

Community grants, with applications due in April, will be put on hold. The Girls Leadership Program, which pairs eight young women from rural Montana communities with female mentors together to develop community projects, will continue, although mentoring has been shifted to online meetings. Applications for the 2020 program will open later this spring. As well, an annual timber skills workshop funded by the foundation is still scheduled for Sept. 10-13.

In lieu of the 2020 lineup announcement, Calhoun will make an announcement on Facebook on April 4 along with several past festival performers, which can be viewed at www.facebook.com/redantspantsmusicfestival starting at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.redantspantsfoundation.org or www.redantspantsmusicfestival.org.


Photos: 2018 Red Ants Pants Music Festival

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