Forester's Ball preparations underway at UM


MISSOULA, Mont. - It's a tradition more than 90 years in the making, and this year's Foresters Ball promises to be better than ever.

The 97th annual ball kicks off this Friday at the University of Montana and organizers were hard at work today getting ready.

Publicity officer for the Forester's Ball Leslie Neu said the event, "is a walk back in time. As soon as you walk through the doors you're transported back to an 18th-century logging town where everybody's kicking up their heels and having a great time."

But before those dance shoes hit the floor, there's still lots of work to be done. Organizers said it's all volunteers who make this event happen and that makes for long days and nights.

"It's just really fun to work with people that have a passion for it. We want to keep this going as long as we can," said Chris Freeborn, the construction officer for the event.

Freeborn runs the show and is in charge of making sure everything gets done on time. He said this is his fourth year working on the ball and he started planning last spring for the event.

Builders will have to drive almost 200 pounds of nails, but will be able to work with mostly recyclable or reusable materials. In fact, the bar front was built in 1971 and the wood floors date back to the 1940s.

Don't expect the drunken evenings of the past this year, though. In 2012 more than 100 students were kicked out of the ball for being drunk and unruly, and the University's president almost canceled the tradition. Alcohol is completely prohibited and organizers are taking great steps to make sure it stays that way.

"We've tightened the security at the door and then within the ball. We've made it very aware to students that there is no alcohol at the Forester's Ball, but it is still a really fun event," said Leslie Neu.

The ball is the primary fundraiser to raise money for forestry scholarships at the University of Montana. To be eligible for those scholarships, students must do a mandatory amount of hours helping to build and tear down the ball. In the end the students say it's well worth it.

Freeborn said, "At the end of the week, around Friday afternoon when I can barely stand because I'm so tired, it's really cool to just walk into the gym and realize that we turned a basketball court into an 1800s logging town."

In the Forester's Ball's history, only two years were missed -- during World War II when there weren't enough men at the University to construct the ball.

For more information on the event click here.