When Larry Kiff first heard he’d be playing at the Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs, his mouth sank to the floor. The country music festival, which attracted 18,000 people this year, was his biggest break yet. The 47-year-old had dreamt of playing in front of swaths of people, side-by-side with some of his biggest country music idols, since he was a boy on his family’s cattle ranch in Ringling, deep in rural Montana. As a kid, he’d watch countless episodes of Buck Owens’ “Hee Haw,” hoping to one day be like Buck, with his signature American flag guitar.
Now, in his 30th year of playing music, it’s beginning to happen. Larry has worked hard for this opportunity for decades. He’s advocated for himself and landed gigs completely on his own volition. He’s played regularly at a smattering of Bozeman establishments, from senior homes to bars, and played the national anthem for local events a handful of times, too. Larry has done all of this despite living with developmental disabilities due to seizures he’s had since he was 2 years old.
This summer, as Red Ants Pants inched closer, he found himself constantly thinking about it. When the festival finally came, his show was a huge success. While he didn’t get a spot on the main stage for next year’s festival, he received a standing ovation and even a job offer to be Red Ant Pants’ ambassador of the side stage, which he accepted. Now, Larry is looking forward at even higher goals and aspirations with more hope and confidence than ever, starting with his lifelong dream of playing in the Grand Ole Opry.