Pandemic postpones major festivals

Montana Folk Festival and Red Ants Pants reschedule for July 2021

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Clearly, the coronavirus pandemic and crowds just don’t go together. With that in mind, two of Montana’s biggest festivals – Red Ants Pants and the Montana Folk Festival – are postponing until 2021.

“Due to the ongoing threats posed to all of us by the spread of COVID-19 in Butte and the region, the 2020 Montana Folk Festival has been postponed until July 9-11, 2021,” announced Festival Director George Everett on April 17.

He said the decision to postpone was made after consulting federal, state and local guidelines regarding the potential threat of spreading COVID-19 at mass gatherings, “and from growing concerns for the health and welfare of our fans, volunteers, staff and artists, our neighbors, and community.”

“We have been fortunate in Montana so far, but this is a regional festival and through our wide-reaching marketing, we invite attendees from surrounding states and Canada where the virus may be more widespread,” he added.

Mainstreet Uptown Butte is the festival’s lead non-profit and has organized the free event since 2008. This would have marked its 13th year.

“The Montana Folk Festival began during the Great Recession and we are proud to have weathered that national emergency, but this pandemic dwarfs that challenge,” said Everett.

“Until a vaccine or effective treatment emerges physical distancing is one of the only weapons we have against the spread of the virus,” he adds. “But it is also the death of festivals that bring people together to dance in the streets and celebrate the fullness of the short sweet summer in the Northern Rockies.

The festival annually draws up to 170,000 fans, plus 900 volunteers and 250 performers and artisans to historic Uptown Butte. The estimated economic impact is about $8 million for the city and $25-$30 million for the region and state.

While acknowledging that the festival provides a potent economic stimulus, “we believe the health and safety of everyone takes precedence and this is the right decision at this time,” Everett said.

He expressed appreciation to the throngs of visitors and volunteers. “While we hibernate for a year, we hope that everyone will use the downtime to reflect on the importance of this event to themselves and to Montana. Meanwhile, we will get busy planning a bigger and better festival for the summer in 2021.”

Red Ants Pants returns to the cow pasture in White Sulphur Springs July 22-25.
Red Ants Pants returns to the cow pasture in White Sulphur Springs July 22-25, 2021.

The Montana Folk Festival is produced by Mainstreet Uptown Butte with major partnership and support from Butte-Silver Bow County and the Imagine Butte Collaborative. Artistic programming services are provided by the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

Red Ants Pants: Pandemics don’t stop at the county line

The Red Ants Pants Music Festival, which has drawn thousands to a cow pasture just outside White Sulphur Springs each summer since 2011, announced its decision to reschedule in early April. The 10th festival is now slated for July 22-25.

“We are a homegrown, volunteer-driven festival based in a community of 900 people with the goal of bringing good folks together to celebrate rural Montana,” said festival producer and Red Ants Pants Foundation executive director Sarah Calhoun in a statement announcing the decision. “While we are a small, tight-knit community, we know a global pandemic doesn’t stop at the county line. To prioritize the health and safety of our hometown, fans, musicians, volunteers, and staff, we are pushing pause on the 2020 festival and will look forward to putting on our best festival ever in 2021.”

Meanwhile, Calhoun added that the foundation is exploring ways to help ease the strain of the pandemic in rural communities. At the same time, she’s looking at how Red Ants Pants, her apparel company, might contribute to creating Personal Protective Equipment for frontline workers.