Just fewer than 1,000 people walked through the south doors of the Adams Center  on Saturday night to witness the Western-themed town of the 96th Foresters’ Ball come to life for a second night. Many of the men wore flannels, jeans and boots.  Many of the women did as well, only with a bit more skin exposed.

Through the entrance of the West Auxiliary Gym, people funneled down a long evergreen-lined path leading to a checkpoint where students were searched before they could enter. A white sign read “NO ALCOHOL”.

Anyone looking to break this rule would potentially have to answer to one of the six security guards or eight police officers on duty.  Sgt. Rich Zitzka, the police coordinator for the Ball, said that 10 officers were scheduled to be on duty, but with lower ticket sales, he decided to reduce that number.

“There were no problems Friday night,” Zitzka said. “We didn’t have to kick anyone out.”

Friday was indeed a tamer ball then has been seen in years past, but Saturday night  turned out a bit more eventful. Twelve people were turned away Saturday night for drunkenness or trying to sneak in alcohol.

After successfully clearing security and checking in coats, a 20-foot slide that dominated the south wall was the immediate choice of many who entered. By far the events most enticing spectacle, the line to ride the slide stretched more than 30 feet to the barbershop where Scott Robinson, local barber, could shave a mullet, Mohawk or beard for anyone who sat in his chair.  On the wall, Robinson tallied the number of each cut he gave.

He also offered duct tape wax jobs for those looking for something a bit more unconventional. Under the “Waxing” column on the wall was a solo tally mark.

Next door was the supply cache, where students could buy Foresters’ Ball shirts and gifts.  Lights from the cache illuminated many out front on the walkway eating chili from the Hard Hat Cafe, which was sponsored by the University of Montana Student Recreation Association. Serving students  was Ethan Ryan, a sophomore studying anthropology, who wore a Pabst Blue Ribbon hat and rainbow suspenders. He said he was very happy that the Ball was able to continue.

“There are a lot less pukers this year,” said Ryan, who had seen a few people throw up at last year’s event.

At the table of the cafe, a man with long, dark, curly hair covered by a black-brimmed hat sat and dealt hands of Texas Hold ‘em, betting peanuts with anyone interested. 

He admitted that last year’s event was a bit more raucous and interesting for poker.

“Last year a guy bet me his right boot,” Rabil said. “And he lost.”

Hannah Reagan, a freshman studying political science, said Rabil was the best part of the event.  She said the rest felt just as awkward as the dances she had left behind in high school.

“Why don’t they just open a bar in here?” Reagan said. “If people are going to drink then they are going to drink.”

Reagan said that the foresters had done a wonderful job putting on the Ball, but said the social circumstances made it much less rowdy than she had anticipated. Her friend, Hannah Syrenne, a freshman studying political science, agreed that the Ball seemed tame in comparison to the stories she had previously heard.

“I like the band though,” Syrenne said.

Her older brother, Jake Syrenne, was a tenor saxophone player for the band, Kung Fu Kountry. Syrenne and the band pumped out old country tunes for those attending. Cove Jasmine, vocalist and keyboard player for the band, said this was the band’s first time publicly playing country. Known publicly as Kung Fu Kongress, Jasmine said this was a unique opportunity to play everyone’s favorite country songs.

“It’s time for us to put on our cowboy clothes and jam,” Jasmine said.

The north side of the gym stationed Saint Smokey’s Church, where those attending could pay $2 dollars to choose between a male-dominant or female-dominant marriage.  Allison Gibson, a sophomore studying geography, read vows to Mitchell Montine, junior, and Peri McLaren, freshman, both of whom decided to seal the deal.

“Knowing that you are a weak and whiny baby […] you agree to fulfill any demand […] of this beautiful deserving goddess,” Gibson said.

“I do,” Montine said. He put a gold ring on McLaren’s finger while she put a silver ring on his. They kissed before rushing out the side to the dance floor where a circle had formed around some dancers near the stage.

Fifteen corset-clad ladies began a choreographed dance to indecipherable country music being pumped through the speakers. Toward the end of their dance, they were joined by 15 forester gentlemen for some old-fashioned swing dancing.

And then things got weird.  The guys ripped of their clothes to expose rainbow underwear. Still wearing their construction helmets, they joined arms with the ladies and performed a final leg kick dance to whistles and cheers from the crowd.

One dancer, Sarah DeNitto, a senior studying wildlife biology, was also working at the “bar,” where students could get non-alcoholic refreshments. Dylan Brooks, the publicity manager of the event, was there drinking a water and enjoying the final hours of the Ball.  He said he was very happy with how the event turned out.

“Hopefully people see that security isn’t as bad as they had originally thought,” Brooks said. “We just want everyone to have a good time.”

 

zeno.wicks@umontana.edu

 

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