Missoula Story of the Week: The Foresters’ Ball


There was a time when you could carry a handgun into the Foresters’ Ball.

However, since its inception in 1916, the annual fundraising event has changed with the times and will change at least once more or be eliminated.

According to NBCMontana.com, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom has demanded several adjustments to the event. Engstrom’s decision comes in response to the problems surrounding last year’s dance.

A KPAX news story outlined the problems with the 96th annual fundraiser, which led to over 130 people to be removed from its new location in the Adams Field House. UM Public Safety Chief Gary Taylor stated that despite banning alcohol from the event, “students obviously consumed it before they entered.”

The change to a larger venue also meant more ticket sales and a much larger crowd for the two-day event.

The Missoula Montana Foresters' Ball logo

A Montana Kaimin article stated the number of tickets sales at almost a thousand more than the previous year’s event. Chief Gary Taylor agreed problems arose from the event’s growth, stating that “the bigger the party, the harder it is to manage.” According to Taylor, “officers were so tied up helping intoxicated people that they didn’t have time to write tickets and opted to kick people out instead.”

The drunken chaos that marked this year’s event, coupled with the recent student sexual assaults reported at off-campus parties, seems to have led President Engstrom with the decision to drastically change the event.

A February 21 Montana Kaimin article outlining the modifications the UM President’s demands suggests future Foresters’ Balls will be more family-friendly.

President Engstrom listed the minimum changes needed:

  • The ball must start and end earlier.
  • Inappropriate aspects, like the “Passion Pit,” must be eliminated.
  • The ball must be appropriate for families and young children.
  • The focus of the event must be education, not a party.
  • Attendance must be kept to a “manageable size.”
  • A clear plan must be made for keeping out people under the influence of alcohol.

While the Foresters’ Ball is likely to make the needed evolution in order to continue, a rowdy, alcohol-fueled fundraiser will no longer occur. However, it is uncertain whether the changes will attract as many participants, or instead turn the Foresters’ Ball into a ghost town.


Each week, Tom Diddel recaps the most talked-about stories in Missoula. Visit the Make it Missoula News & Opinion section for more talk of the town.


Tom Diddel has lived in Missoula on and off for nearly thirty-eight years. He enjoys skiing, hiking, and many other outdoor activities. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Montana and is currently working as a Freelance Writer and a Para-Educator.