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Some years spring break sneaks up on us working stiffs, even in a college town like Missoula. And then there are years like this one, when an abundance of news stories, promotional hoo-ha and local shindigs are serendipitously arriving at once to rub it in, er, courteously inform us of this especially celebratory and wanderlustrous time of year.

It started with reminders about every dad’s nightmare and the unofficial pimp of spring break, Girls Gone Wild creator Joseph Francis, recently pleading guilty on charges that he failed to document the ages of female shirt-lifters in his videos; Francis is currently on three years probation, limiting his company’s typically comprehensive, um, exposure this time of year. Then there’s the news that Miller Brewing is launching a new beer this month, Chill, that combines “a hint of lime and salt” with a regular pale lager. (They couldn’t get the shot of tequila in there, too?) Its immediate test markets include such spring break havens as Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Lake Havasu, Ariz., to name two.

Closer to home, there’s less sensational, more palatable stories of spring break. Aside from the warmer weather, the University of Montana—their official vacation runs March 26-30—is sending two crews of students on Alternative Breaks. The goal of this civic outreach program, which has been around at UM since 1997, is to line up do-gooders with short-term volunteer projects. This year one crew will work at a soup kitchen and service site (packaging hygiene kits, for example) in San Francisco and the other will assist at a wetlands conservancy outside Portland. The 14 students each pay $300 to volunteer (figure that out) and, in perhaps a saving grace of sorts, no Miller Chill—or any other drugs or alcohol—are allowed since the program is dry.

“I know it sounds trite, but watching TV and seeing all of that MTV Spring Break bullshit makes me sick,” says Alternative Breaks coordinator and UM sophomore Jamie Rogers. “There are a lot of other opportunities out there other than getting wasted.”

Rogers, who’s part of the Oregon trip, adds that it’s not all sacrifice—the fee covers the students’ transportation, lodging and meals, essentially creating a vogue sort of vacation known as “voluntourism.”

And finally, there’s news of something even those of us beyond college can embrace: The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula is hosting a new retrospective exhibit on 100 years of vacations titled From Picnic Baskets to Suitcases. The exhibit, which opens Sunday, March 25, reminds us that “once upon a time, not so long ago, the concept of a vacation did not exist.” Considering such contemporary evidence as discarded bikini tops, artificially flavored beer and fee-paying volunteers, we can’t imagine what that exhibit would look like in another 100 years.
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