Red Ants Pants Music Fest A captivating Montana backdrop draws record attendance at fifth annual event

If Montana summers had a soundtrack, surely they would sound like the quick-rolling thunderstorms of White Sulphur Springs—distant and brooding and followed by rainbows—capped with liquid blue skies, sparkling sunsets, and nights as thick as molasses, rich with shooting stars. With, of course, a live concert and raging dance party in a cow pasture.

More than 14,000 people descended on such a setting for the fifth Red Ants Pants Music Festival, a three-day event held annually in July just outside of White Sulphur Springs, population 970.

“It was definitely one for the books, and we could not have done it without the support of the White Sulphur Springs community,” said Sarah Calhoun, Red Ants Pants Music Festival founder and producer.

Holly Williams (of the Hank Williams family), during her Saturday afternoon performance, looked across the festival crowd while retelling her arrival in Montana. Her husband Chris Coleman (Kings of Leon), who played by her side, was so taken with the surroundings, Williams was worried he wouldn’t leave.

“Something’s resonating deep inside of me,” Williams said of Montana.

Across each day, artists, attendees, and staff gave off similar vibes, reverberating with the vast countryside and the curated musical experience that brought Canadian folk, Nashville blues, American roots music, Texas country, and more to the Montana landscape.

Ryan Bingham brought the RAPMF audience to a Saturday apex, creating such a stomping grounds that dust rose high above the dancing crowd into the pitch of Montana’s night, a melodious crown to the music of the past two days.

It was in this connectivity to place, the circling of chords in such beauty, that has made RAPMF a destination for artists and fans.

“Our measure of success is how well we can bring people together to connect with good folks, celebrate rural Montana and enjoy world-class music that transcends all divides,” said Kathy Weber, PR director for RAPMF. “By that standard, it was a huge success.”

With record attendance, event organizers hail this the most successful RAPMF to date, and by financial measure, the festival raised a significant chunk of money to empower the Red Ants Pants Foundation.

“The thousands of folks who supported this year’s Red Ants Pants Music Festival will have a lasting impact on Montana,” said Weber, “by funding grants for projects that promote women’s leadership, our working family farms and ranches and our rural communities via the Red Ants Pants Foundation.”


Sixth Annual Red Ants Pants Music Festival
July 28th – 31st, 2016

Red Ants in Your Pants Dance your pants off, and, while you're at it, pick up a new pair

Sarah Calhoun describes herself as a connecter. When she first launched her business, a company that makes workwear for women, Calhoun traveled the country hosting pants parties out of an airstream trailer, learning about her customer base in face-to-face connections.

With this philosophy of direct human connection, Calhoun grew Red Ants Pants to a leader in women-led small businesses and a champion for rural enterprises.

Based in the small ranching town of White Sulphur Springs, Red Ants Pants is simple: “We love hard work and we love pants that fit.

Though Calhoun didn’t have a background in music, she knew there was something important about the connection that live music culture fosters.

Coming together in person is a really important piece of the human connection...I don’t want to lose sight of that in our world. Sarah Calhoun, Founding Owner, Red Ants Pants

So Calhoun launched a music festival five years ago in a cow pasture just outside of White Sulphur Springs.  The perfect place to dance your pants off (and pick up a new pair while you’re at it), Red Ants Pants Music Festival harks back to the company’s mission by bringing revenue into White Sulpher Springs and connecting people through good music across a great landscape.

Festival proceeds provide a portion of the company’s funding while also funding the Red Ants Pants Foundation, supporting women’s leadership, working family farms and ranches, and enriching and promoting rural communities.

The festival has grown traction since its inception, and has garnered positive word-of-mouth recognition among artists. “They love the hospitality and the energy of the crowd,” Calhoun said. “They all want to come back.”

Calhoun said it’s hard not to have a good time at the fest. “The Montana skyline, the sunsets, and the landscape—there’s a reason we all live in Montana.”

When: July 23 – 26, 2015

Where: White Sulphur Springs

Who: Friday features headliners blues musician Keb’ Mo’ and country beauty Lee Ann Womack. Alt rockers Lucero, Shook Twins, and more. Saturday Ryan Bingham headlines, with Turnpike Troubadours, Dead Horses and more among the performers, and Sunday features the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band headlining, with Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis and Annalise Emerick are among other Sunday acts.

In addition to musical acts, the festival has a wide range of clothing, food, and goods vendors, as well as agricultural and work demos, including cross cut saw demonstrations, sheep shearing, horse shoeing, roping, and more. For the bearded folks in attendance, the annual Beard and Mustache contest is a blast.

Tickets: Options include a three-day pass for $125 in advance or $140 at the gate, and one-day passes run $50 in advance ($55 at the gate). VIP seating is offered on a for $500 (limited availability).

Camping is an additional $20 per person. Children 12 and under, if accompanied by adult, are admitted free of charge to both the festival and campground. If interested, festival organizers are assisted by up to 250 volunteers and actively seek help for each year’s events.

Where to stay: The town of White Sulpher rolls out the carpet for Red Ants Pants goers. Festival attendees can stay at a handful of lodging offerings in the town, or on-site at a field adjacent to the festival grounds. No RV hook-ups, but showers ($), potable water, porta-potties, hand washing stations, and trash receptacles are provided. An on-site breakfast wagon offers up hot meals, and though it’s a bit dusty, staying and playing in the same space offers up the full festival feeling.

More info:

Insider tip: Look for music into the early hours of the morning throughout the campground. Follow your ears and you’ll no doubt stumble into a den of musicians jamming or a circle of bluegrass improve, still running off the high that watching live music in such an intimate, rural setting can produce.