WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS – The 8th Annual Red Ants Pants Music Festival is up and running this weekend, already with record-setting attendance.
The founder of the festival, Sarah Calhoun, currently lives in White Sulphur Springs but is not originally from Montana. Calhoun grew up on a farm in Connecticut, with a desire to always come to the Treasure State.
Following her heart, she made her way to Montana and started the company, Red Ants Pants, which was the first agriculture clothing line designed specifically for women. Since moving to Montana, every day has been a journey.
"And really there is a human connection here that I don’t feel like is necessarily relevant in other places,” Calhoun said.
Wanting to get her company name out, Calhoun started the Tour de Pants traveling tour, where she traveled around the nation hosting parties and attending festivals. That is when the Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs was born in 2011. Some of the big names who have performed in the past include Charley Pride and Emmylou Harris.
"This whole event honestly isn’t about the headliner. It’s about the people coming together and connecting. Especially people from different parts of the world and different beliefs and different politics and all of that. You can leave that at the gate, you can come in and just be a good person and a good neighbor and that is exactly what we are trying to do here,” said Calhoun.
Calhoun said this year the festival has the largest campground yet and more tickets have been sold than ever before. Even though the event keeps growing each year, for her, it’s not about making it bigger each year but making it better.
Part of that is making it about more than just the music. The proceeds from the festival and ticket sales go towards the Red Ants Pants Foundation to boost women in leadership, promote rural communities and support local farmers and ranchers through various grants and programs. For example, in 2015 the foundation gave $500 to Flathead FFA to buy welding helmets for girls in high school. In the past, the welding helmets that were provided were too heavy for the girls, leaving them not wanting to take the class. Now with the new helmets anyone is able to be in the class if they choose to.
Not including this year’s festival, the foundation has already donated more than $100,000 to different programs.
"The fact that we have stayed ahead and been able to donate over $100,000 feels pretty darn good,” said Calhoun.