Sunday, August 10, 2008

Smokey's Birthday Party

On August 9, 1944, Smokey Bear was "born." I attended his birthday party yesterday at the Forest Discovery Center in Pisgah National Forest.

Smokey Bear, and his famous slogan, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires," were begun as a public service campaign. How did they determine August 9, 1944, as his birthday? That is the release date of the first Smokey Bear poster.

Many people mistakenly believe the entire Smokey Bear campaign began because of a little burned bear cub. In fact, the little cub who became the living symbol of Smokey was rescued in 1950 in New Mexico. He lived the remainder of his life at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

The image of Smokey Bear became protected by federal law with the passage of the Smokey Bear Act of 1952.

The Forest Discovery Center did a fine job of arranging Smokey's party. Multiple tents and staging areas allowed wonderful activities for the kids. Face-painting, making birthday cards, practicing with fire fighting equipment and several others delighted the children.

Here, the kids play Smokey Bingo.

Brevard Fire Department provided a fire engine. The little ones loved climbing up and sitting in the driver's seat.

Firefighters helped the children don hats and jackets and use a portable fire hose to shoot at "flames." There was a long line at this activity and the firefighters were so patient, giving each child individual attention.

Many children walked around with Smokey masks they made at this booth.

This little girl plays "Pin the pail on the fire."

All participants won prizes, of course. The little girl was eager to show her father what she won. (No comment at all on the shirt. This is Western NC, folks.)
Finally, Smokey makes an appearance, escorted by a Forest Service volunteer.

About a dozen birthday cakes were placed at the various stations and served to the party guests. Each was decorated differently.

This little guy watches patiently for his father to bring his cake.

It is of interest to note that ALL of the people involved in helping with this party (and maintaining the Discovery Center as well), are non-paid VOLUNTEERS. Reduced funding for the National Forest Service and the National Park Service has led to an increased demand for volunteers.

I can't resist addressing the controversy about Smokey's full name. You may remember when you were in the second grade and heard the joke:
Question: What is Smokey the Bear's middle name?
Answer: "the"

There is no "the" in Smokey Bear's name. It all began with a song about him and the writers added "the" to make the rhythm flow better. Why does this matter so much to anyone? I haven't a clue. But some folks will correct every person who mentions Smokey the Bear, informing them there is no "the." You figure.
BTW: One of the most well know slogans in the United States, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires," was changed in 2001 and the current slogan is, "Only YOU can prevent wildfires."


TSannie said...

I didn't know any of that Smoky history! Thank you for sharing.

The Birdlady said...

That looks like fun!

Shellmo said...

What a neat party! Liked hearing about the history too!

Ruth said...

I think I remember Smokey from TV ads. He is not a Canadian icon, but his message is good for anyone. Good for all those volunteers.

Jayne said...

Smokey is such a good icon and has been on his best behavior for a long, long time. :c) Happy Birthday Buddy.

Kerri said...

When I was growing up in the 70s Smokey (the) Bear was BIG in our school system....and I remember it as "Only you can prevent Forest Fires". I didn't realize they had changed that. He sure did a LOT to educate children! I LOVE Smokey!!

Lynne said...

Thanks for the history surround Smokey Bear. Growing up we always passed Smokey Bear signs with a dial and an arrow pointing to the fire danger level. As kids we thought Smokey was "ours" and not a national campaign!

NCmountainwoman said...

tsannie - Thanks

Helen - I had a great time. Too bad I don't have any grandchildren to take along with me.

Shelley - It was very well planned.

Ruth - We wouldn't be able to run our sites without volunteers. And I do thank them at every opportunity.

Jayne - You're absolutely right.

Kerri - He is still working hard to educate children. What a guy!

Lynne - I grew up thinking Smokey was OURS. After all, we lived in the mountains and he talked about forest fires. Perhaps that's the reason for his universal appeal.