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Huckleberries

Globally distributed huckleberries to the International Choral Festival, which has brought a world of diverse, magnificent music to Missoula every three years starting from the first gathering in 1987. By the time it wraps up Saturday night, this year’s four-day festival will have featured 11 choirs hailing from Germany, Estonia, China, Finland, Hungary, Catalonia, Lithuania, Indonesia, and Arizona, California and the University of Montana’s own Chamber Chorale.

A helmet packed with huckleberries to the nearly 200 hikers who looped Snowbowl last weekend to raise money for the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana. The second annual Big Sky Challenge Hike raised nearly $30,000 for the nonprofit that saw its state funding slashed two years ago.

Blazing chokecherries to the expected — but still unwelcome — ratcheting of Missoula County’s Fire Danger rating to “high.” The Missoula County Fire Protection Association made the call last week after noting the increased risk due to daily temperatures in the high 80s, drying vegetation and people who insist on setting fire to debris piles despite the county’s outdoor burning closure posted earlier this month.

A huckleberry bush abuzz with bees to the University of Montana scientists developing a new app to monitor the health of bee colonies and help detect certain bee diseases. The researchers formed Bee Alert Technology Inc. and are fine-tuning their app, called Bee Health Guru, already in use by some 600 researchers and beekeepers around the world.

And another round of huckleberries to UM’s Montana Geriatric Education Center, which recently learned that it will receive a $3.75 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration to help health centers and communities better prepare for an aging population. This important work is of particular concern in Montana, where census projections say more than 30 percent of residents will be age 60 or older within the next decade.

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Soggy chokecherries to the river enthusiasts who jump off bridges in spite of the clear danger of severely injuring themselves or others — if they are lucky enough to survive in the first place. As the water level of local rivers steadily drops, the jumpers lined up along the Madison Street footbridge, Maclay Bridge and other popular river spans face increasing risk of hitting a rock or log hidden under the water — or colliding with someone else.

That’s what happened just a few years ago, when a man jumped from Bandmann Bridge in East Missoula and landed on a man who was floating under it, breaking both his legs. The very next summer, another jumper was charged with misdemeanor negligent endangerment after he leaped from the same bridge and collided with a man who had jumped just beforehand, and knocked him unconscious.

Then there are the numerous drowning deaths over the years that serve as additional tragic reminders of just why it is illegal to jump from bridges in Missoula County.

A housewarming basket of huckleberries to Kathy Veazey, whose generous donation of $1.1 million helped launch the YWCA Missoula’s public fundraising campaign for a new family shelter. The nonprofit has raised $6.5 million toward its $8 million goal, which will allow it to build a new domestic violence shelter and provide housing for dozens of families in need.

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