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LUBRECHT FOREST — Harvesting wood for the University of Montana's annual Foresters' Ball is no easy task.

Forestry Club students and alumni ascended a steep, bumpy road on Saturday to a section of Lubrecht, the University’s experimental forest about 30 miles outside Missoula, where they gathered over 200 trees. In February, they'll use the trees to transform Schreiber Gymnasium into a woodland wonderland for the annual event.

Although the Foresters' Ball doesn't take place until February, the students like to get a head start by going on the "Pole Run" in the fall.

"It's such a big event that we really have to start early to make sure we have what we need," Rachel Cutler, a sophomore, said.

"And make sure we have the people we need," Priya Keller, a sophomore, added.

Cutler said they also plan the Pole Run in the fall to avoid the chance of snow that could make it impossible to traverse the winding road, and to take students' priorities into consideration.

“We have to coordinate with hunting season because if it’s opening day, no one is going to come,” Cutler said.

About 30 Forestry Club members and alumni gathered Saturday at Lubrecht, bringing with them chainsaws to cut down the trees they'll use as structural supports for the miniature logging town.

Juniors, seniors and alumni donned hard hats as they sawed down lodgepole pine and helped each other haul the fresh cuts into piles which they'll later load onto a logging truck and store in the garage of an alumnus. Meanwhile, Ty Aldworth, a senior, showed freshmen how to use chainsaws to make base and sloping cuts to bring down a tree.

Heather Robertson, a senior who is overseeing all aspects of this year's ball, said sustainable forestry is important to the club.

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"This area has a lot of beetle kill from the mountain pine beetle that came through in the 2008-09 time period," she said. "So we come out here and we cut down the trees that are dead ... and use them for something instead of them just ending up on the ground to rot."

This year will be the 103rd Foresters' Ball, making it a UM tradition older than homecoming. Forestry students held the first ball in 1915 and it has occurred almost every year since with the exception of a couple years during World War II. Each year, the premise is the same but Forestry Club officers and committee members add their own twist.

"We switch it up every year," said Owen Oster, the Forestry Club president and this year's construction officer for the ball. "No building should ever be the same."

Oster helped come up with this year's theme and some of the structures they'll build. Although he wouldn't share this year's theme, Robertson hinted that it has something to do with timber sports.

Oster said they'll have many of the same fixtures as previous years such as a photo booth, chow hall, merchandise booth and a bar, but they'll also turn the ATM into a bank and add a jail where people can take photos with friends.  

"It's really cool seeing pictures from previous years, seeing the different construction officers and the different committee members, how they influence the ball and how it looks," Oster said.

The ball not only provides students and the community with a fun event, it also generates funds for scholarships through proceeds. Any student who volunteers 80 hours for the ball can write an essay to apply for one of the scholarships regardless of their major.

Students in the Forestry Club are often students majoring in forestry, conservation, wildlife and biology, although any students are welcome to join or help with the ball.

"My favorite thing about Foresters' Ball is getting a bunch of people together, even from all different majors," Robertson said. "It's all students that make this happen each year."

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