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Tight-knit relationships the secret ingredient of Red Ants Pants Festival’s success

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At least 12,000 people will attend the Red Ants Pants Music Festival this weekend in White Sulphur Springs, but for organizer Sarah Calhoun, the relationships that are built and strengthened during the festivities are much more important than how many people they bring in.

“The people is the big experience for me,” Calhoun said. “Just seeing what happens out there and what it does to people stepping onto those grounds … it’s so homegrown and genuine to me and I know every step of it that every person does every role out there and that community element is in my mind what it’s all about. Seeing what we as people can accomplish together.”

Some of those relationships include the bond musicians spark in a jovial, uplifting way with the crowd. If that’s done well, the audience in turn often returns the favor by feeding that positive energy back onto the stage through applause, chanting, singing or the simple act of smiling a little more as the music is played.

Friends and families, too, can share their love of similar tastes in music while discovering new favorites, and strangers have the chance to become allies with either a random dance, or perhaps a shared moment of unexpected bliss while taking in the music, food, demonstrations or any of the other things to experience.

Charley Pride 1
Charley Pride headlines the 4th annual Red Ants Pants Festival this weekend. Courtesy photo

And indeed, having another talented and varied group of musicians on tap to perform certainly helps things too.

Headlining is Charley Pride, who has kept many relationships in the immediate area to this day after getting his start in country music in Helena and Great Falls in the early 1960s.

Calhoun said she knows more than a few people coming to the show who remember seeing him when he was a kid moonlighting as a singer after he got done playing baseball for the Rookie League team in Great Falls.

“We’ve gotten calls from so many old-timers coming to shows and it’s so neat to see these people who have personal connections to Charley Pride coming. That’ll be great.”

Before Pride performs, Calhoun said she’s confident that the rest of the bill will not have one less-than-incredible performer on it.

“This year seems extra solid, I mean you know people like Charley Pride and Corb Lund hit the more traditional country feel, but the younger acts like Brandi Carlile and Josh Ritter perform incredible music and still are a little more alternative than the standard pop bands. It’s really, really great music and I’m sure all the old-timers who come for Ian Tyson and Charley pride will end up loving the others, and that’s what so fun about the lineup is that people might show up for just one act and leave loving them all.”

For one fan, Whitney Bermes of Bozeman, she said her love of  Carlile is one of the biggest reasons she’s attending.

Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile

“This will be my first Red Ants Pants Festival and I’ m stoked,” she said. “It really was Brandi Carlile who sold me. I’ve seen her four times already. I listen to her all the time. I’m just so so so happy to get to see her in Montana!”

While the music might be the most visible part of the festival, Calhoun said the demo area is just as important to both the organizers and the attendees.

She said having blue-collared competitors and demonstrators out there falls in line with their vision of showcasing the farm and ranch communities that are a huge part of what makes Montana special.

“(The demonstrations) are the meat of the festival, so to speak,” she sad. “The music is very important and the initial draw, but the experience on site is what really grabs a lot of people. Our whole (Red Ants Pants) Foundation is based on women’s leadership working on farms and ranches and this is another way to draw that message home.
We do it somewhat subtly by profiling and demonstrating traditional agricultural skills that are just so important to these communities and for the foundation, this is exactly what we want to value. How we do that is in the demo area.”

Some of the highlights of the demo area this year include crosscut competitions, a demo on how to make biodiesel, ranch roping 101, blacksmith and horseshoeing workshops, the teamster and draft horse log pull, and a workshop on the history of the cross cut saw.

Finally, Calhoun said each of the food and drink vendors are either 100 percent organic or Montana based businesses and that each year they assess how the previous festival went and try making it a little more accessible or easy for people to get around and/or get out of the sun.

She said this year there will be more handicapped areas and that the family area will have more going on as well. One thing people should keep in mind when attending is that while there will be alcohol on sale there, people cannot bring in outside alcohol due to a local ordinance.

Keep checking back for more on some of the bands performing at this year’s festival.
For a complete schedule of events and pricing options, visit www.redantspantsfestival.com

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