Get Out Your Flannel; Montana Tradition Returns to UM
It was the last big event at the University of Montana before the door slammed shut on the school, and the world just weeks later.
Now, for the first time since those first scary weeks of the pandemic, students are gathering to resume the interrupted, century-old tradition of the Foresters' Ball.
It's an event that celebrates Western Montana's timber heritage, and also the long history of the W.A. Franke College of Forestry, which started in 1913 and was one of UM's original programs. It was also one of the first programs accredited by the Society of American Foresters.
This year marks the 104th Foresters' Ball, succeeding the 103rd annual event, which was held in February, just as COVID was making world headlines. Consequently, only the seniors have taken part in the tradition. It was even canceled last year.
It takes a week to get ready.
Starting Monday, students brought in wood flooring across the Schreiber Gym floor, hauling in logs and chainsaws to turn the room into an antique logging camp, complete with false front saloons, a chapel, and other buildings. There's even a jail, although revisions were made a few years ago to tone down the rowdiness and make the weekend more family-friendly.
“Most of us haven't gone to one before so it’s just this idea of a ball. But now to actually put it together, it’s been super exciting to see it come into place.”
-Jaiden Stansberry, UM Junior.
The ball will be open to the public this year, at 7 pm both Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are being sold online, with the theme "A Swinging' Good Time." It ain't fancy. Most attendees will dress in jeans, flannel shirts, boots, and even a few cowboy hats for good measure.
The Foresters' ball had only been canceled twice before.
The pandemic wasn't the only interruption since 1915. The Ball had also been canceled for two years during World War 2.
The ball raises funds for students in the College of Forestry and conservation, helping with scholarships.