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The Missoula Fire Department put the hammer down on the Foresters Ball this year, so the Foresters Ball picked up its hammers and moved elsewhere.

Specifically, the 95-year-old celebration of forestry science and conservation has moved to the Adams Center, where it will continue the tradition started at the University of Montana in 1915. (The ball skipped a couple of years in the 1940s due to World War II.)

"Schreiber Gym doesn't have any fire sprinklers in the building, because it's just so old," said Jonah Vaughan, a forestry senior and publicity officer for the annual ball, which runs over two nights starting Friday.

For the last several years, the Foresters Ball has been "grandfathered" to remain at Schreiber Gym, its historical home on the UM campus. But that pass has now expired, so the ball was forced this year to move to a new home.

All this week, hundreds of UM students and alumni have taken to the floor of the Adams Center, sawing logs and hammering wood to build the structures of the Foresters Ball, which this year - for the first time - includes a log booth housing a barber shop to get your hair cut by a forestry student.

Or maybe clear-cut. Because these students are not professional stylists.

"Yes, it will have a place to get your hair cut," said Vaughan. "But mostly it'll be mohawks and buzz cuts."

The move to the Adams Center has made construction of the numerous structures - the wedding chapel, the bar, the photography booth - a little more challenging because those structures used to be supported by Schreiber Gym's second-floor running track.

"We used to be able to anchor all the structures there for stability," said Vaughan.

The Adams Center is much more expensive to rent for two nights than Schreiber, so the Foresters Ball has had to up its tickets prices by $5 to $20 for a single, $30 for a couple. Still, the event is sold out.

The move has also yielded a couple of bonuses.

Two ATMs are being installed so students can withdraw cash for everything from a cool (non-alcoholic) drink to a wedding photograph. And the additional square footage will make it far easier to get from place to place, or to dance to the music of the Copper Mountain Band.

They'll need the space. Around 3,200 students will pack the place over two nights.

Hundreds of students and alumni - not all of them from the UM College of Forestry and Conservation - are working furiously to get the venue in shape before the ball begins at 8 p.m.

"Thank God for alumni so we can continue the tradition," said chief push Zach Miller, who just received his forestry degree.

Miller said dozens of students sacrifice a lot of time - including time in the classroom - to make the ball happen.

"It's just passionate people who donate hard work," he said. "They miss class, and make up their work in advance just to be here."

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at jkelly@missoulian.com.

 

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