YAM Masquerade Party

Aerial artist Tiffany Molina pours a drink Friday night during the Yellowstone Art Museum's Masquerade Party with the help of her bartender husband, Ty Molina. 

It’s a good thing Lenny the ball python doesn’t have ears, because the Yellowstone Art Museum was roaring with music and chatter Friday night during the first Masquerade Ball, and Lenny was wrapped tightly around his owner’s neck.

Four hundred costumed party-goers jammed both floors of the museum for the sold-out event. Aerial artists poured drinks, Hugh Healow did a fire dance outside on the sidewalk and mystics read tarot cards for guests.

Lenny's owner, Kelli Hahn, decided to come as Eve with a camouflaged skirt and shirt so she could bring Lenny to his first-ever party.

"I know he's nervous because he's tightening around my neck," Hahn said.

The more you mingled, the more flabbergasted you were by the elaborate costumes. There was the gangster who added a foot to his shoulders and head, making him a 7-foot-tall version of Al Capone. Or the body-shop owner, Scott Stodtmeister, who spent a week fabricating a cardboard hat so he could come as the Mad Hatter.

It felt like cheating to buy a costume when you could make one out of recyclables, Mike Cole said. So he turned a linen tablecloth into a robe and came as a Northern Ranger from “Lord of the Rings.”

“Tolkien is my favorite author,” Cole said.

Kat Healy, special events coordinator for the Yellowstone Art Museum, said the party sold out three or four days ago. Then she noticed tickets showing up on Craigslist for $125 each, way more than the original price of $25. 

“I was running around to all of the Holiday stores to pick up any extra tickets. People were racing me to Holiday to get tickets,” Healy said.

Jared McChesney and Cassie LaGreca came as the Phantom of the Opera and Christine. McChesney said he just returned from a trip to New York, so the Phantom idea was on his mind.

“I had my hair cut and painted, and bought the bow tie and my hat at the downtown vintage clothing shop,” McChesney said.

Paul and Rachel Cox re-created costumes their children wore many years ago when they wrapped each other with torn bed sheets and masking tape and came as mummies.

“My son was a mummy one year, and our daughter was Cleopatra,” said Paul Cox, a board member at the YAM.

Cox said tickets were slow to take off when the ball was announced several months ago, but then in the past month, the buzz around town grew.

“It’s interesting to see all the creativity in the costumes,” Paul Cox said. “That is what the YAM is all about — inspired creativity.”

Healy said she was pleased to see such a diverse crowd at the YAM.

“I’ve never seen so many young people in here before. It’s awesome,” Healy said.

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.