If birthday parties were rated, the events surrounding Smokey Bear’s big day would easily earn five stars or diamonds since it is his 75th. From California to Maine, states held celebrations in recognition of the USDA Forest Service’s fire prevention message “bearer” and his famous line, “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”
Smokey is one of the most recognizable of all American advertising icons, and his popularity meant that hosting just one party was not feasible. As an alternative, forests, ranger districts and other areas held individual parties, and the agency organized a social media sing-along to help everyone join in on the fun.
And join in they did. In fact, one video of a fire and rescue crew singing Smokey “Happy Birthday” generated nearly 30,000 views in 48 hours! There were dozens of other videos submitted from all over the U.S., with singers ranging from children, to church groups, to National Park Service employees, many of which also garnered thousands of views.
And in Washington, DC, the Forest Service hosted the winner of the annual National Garden Club's Smokey Bear poster contest, fourth-grader Penny Atkinson of Utah, at USDA headquarters. The National Garden Club has hosted the poster contest for over 50 years. After the winner was recognized, the audience broke into song to wish Smokey a very happy birthday. Smokey was thoroughly fȇted before he posed for photos with the hundreds of attendees.
If you missed out on the August 9 celebrations, no need to worry, because Smokey will continue to celebrate for the rest of the year. The Smokey Bear balloon will appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade for the first time since 1993. And Smokey will also be recognized at the lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree this December. After all, a bear only hits three-quarters of a century once in his life.
For more info about upcoming events and to learn more about the history of Smokey, visit his website at www.smokeybear.com.