What better way to celebrate wildfire prevention education than saluting a 9-year-old girl and an organization that has roots dating back to 1891.
On May 27, Vaibhavi Patankar of Woodland Hills, Calif., was named the top winner in the 2011 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest. The fourth-grader received a trip to Washington, D.C., with her family to collect her trophy and a framed copy of her poster from the Forest Service during a special ceremony at the National Garden Clubs Inc. annual meeting.
This is the 50th year the National Garden Clubs has partnered with the Forest Service to promote the poster contest, which asks children to submit drawings about wildfire prevention or conservation using Smokey’s message – “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” – or Woodsy’s message – “Lend a Hand; Care for the Land.”
For the National Garden Clubs’ work promoting the contest, which has drawn as many as 34,000 entries, the members were honored with the Golden Smokey Bear Award. The Golden Smokey, fashioned after the gilded Oscar Award, is the highest award of its kind honoring dedication to wildfire prevention efforts.
“We all know the messages of Smokey and Woodsy. In our partnership with the National Garden Clubs, we use art to encourage children and their families to think about the importance of those messages,” Forest Service Associate Chief Mary Wagner said during the ceremony. “But their messages are actually much broader, because Smokey and Woodsy use art to evoke a whole range of reflections about the importance of conserving forests and grasslands.”
The other grade-level winners in this year’s contest are Ciana Main, Fairbanks, Alaska, first grade; Jacob Lucero, Fresno, Calif., second grade; Emma Fockele, Gainsville, GA, third grade; and Ana Alvarez, Marsing, Idaho, fifth grade.