It may be the most beautiful setting for a music festival in America, one stage on the bank of a crystal clear creek, and a main stage backed up against tall pines with views of the Whitefish mountain range.
But, the Under the Big Sky Festival, hosted on a working ranch, is certainly the only music festival on earth with its own rodeo.
The two-day festival just outside of Whitefish runs Saturday and Sunday with headliners Emmylou Harris, Jason Isbell, Tyler Childers and Brothers Osborne.
The festival had a smashing debut in 2019, drawing about 15,000 people. In 2020, the pandemic forced is postponement.
Its return isn’t only welcomed by promoters, by area businesses, by vendors and music fans, but artists, too, who spent the pandemic off the road.
"The artists have been telling us how excited they are to return to playing again, and the support from the fans, local community and officials throughout has been amazing,” said the festival’s Johnny Shockey.
Among those artists finally getting some stage time are regional musicians, some who had to find other ways to make a living during the pandemic. The festival’s undercard is heavy with Montana artists, including Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs, Big Sky City Lights, The Lil Smokies, Badger Hound, and the Billings-based Wes Urbaniak.
The festival “very much wants to celebrate and support the local music scene and elevate local artists with its festival curation,” Shockey said. “The festival also works with some amazing venues in downtown Whitefish to host after-parties in the community.”
New this year is the addition of nearby camping through Camp Scout and Gather. Organizers say they’re also complying with all state and local COVID safety guidelines.
Tickets bought for 2020’s postponed festival can be refunded or will be honored at this weekend’s festival.