There are icons and then there is Smokey Bear. Iconic mascots and images come and go but Smokey and his one clear message “Only you can prevent wildfires” has stood the test of time—75 years to be exact.
Smokey, who has never given an interview, has appeared alongside Presidents and movie stars, including John F. Kennedy and Betty White. But most importantly Smokey has appeared with thousands and thousands of children throughout his illustrious career leaving them with a powerful understanding of what they can do to prevent wildfires.
“It’s truly amazing how Smokey’s message has reached out to generation after generation,” said Gwen Beavans, one of Smokey’s USDA Forest Service spokespersons. Beavans explained that the image of Smokey Bear began in 1944 with the wartime advertising council and the need to prevent wildfires which were a threat that used up resources especially during World War II.
Today Smokey couldn’t be more thrilled that his timeless message of fire prevention is getting exposed to a new generation of kids. Smokey really wants these young folks to know that the vast majority of destructive wildfires are started by careless behavior like not properly putting out a campfire or adults tossing cigarettes out of a car window.
So how do you celebrate the birthday of the world’s most famous Bear? With lots of celebrations.
In fact, Smokey’s birthday year has been kicked-off with a nationwide recognition in this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade where Smokey appeared with USDA Forest Service employees and other partners as they walked the parade route in sunny Pasadena, CA not far from the Angeles National Forest.
Many other events are still in the confidential phases of development but the Forest Service will post them via blogs and social media when they are officially rolled out to the public so keep checking in!
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Great news about Smokey! At my library in Round Lake, IL we are having a Smokey Bear Birthday Bash on August 29. We have a permanent Smokey Bear display in our youth (kids) dept. and honor him during each Fire Prevention Month in October. ONly you... ; )
I love this!
I'm a few weeks shy of my 74th birthday and still working full time for USDA RD. My childhood was a magical time of annual summer trips to the National Parks, predominately Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite. Eventually I lived right outside of Yosemite and worked at a restaurant in the park during my high school and college years.
Smokey Bear was my first non-family love! Even at 73 I find him a compelling "friend". My husband and I have a Forest Service cabin atop Mingus Mountain. My kitchen has Smokey Bear magnets, note pads, etc. around the room. Anyway...Happy Birthday Smokey...you're older than I am which is another reason to love you.
Years ago, one of the individuals responsible for saving the little guy came to our grade school in Grants, NM to tell us the story. Back then, the motto was a bit different: "Only you can prevent forest fires" - not "wildfires." You can find a few photographs online of the little guy with bandaged feet, etc.
I have been a Smokey fan all my life! I am 9 months younger than Smokey and am eager to see him in as many locations in my Texas home (or Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, or New Mexico) as I can find! I think I have already missed some so PLEASE help me find them. Thank you for helping my hero Smokey reminding us that "ONLY YOU..."
I got to "be" Smokey the Bear at a fire prevention day. It was amazing to see the kids react to me in the costume and made up for the amazing heat I felt wearing it on a warm October day. My favorite Smokey memory was my Smokey the Bear little Golden Book illustrated by Richard Scarry. I spent hours looking at it as a small child. Smokey is the perfect ambassador to teach children about being stewards of nature. Now I can just walk upstairs in my building and see photos of the little bear in the Forrest Service section of the building. I feel blessed to have so many Smokey memories and to celebrate his birthday.