Happy birthday, Smokey!

by

Sunday, August 10 2008

            Sporting my very official Smokey Bear pin I got at “Fire!” two days before, I headed to Smokey’s Birthday Party in the DNR Amphitheater to start my day at the State Fair.

Bev Stout of Division of Forestry and Vicki Albietz from Lieber State Recreation Area put on quite a show to celebrate Smokey’s 64th birthday. Technically a day late, the celebration did not suffer, featuring some prizes for the kids and wait for it… face painting. I’ll admit I had to pass on getting a paw print on my cheek, if for nothing else than retaining some semblance of professionalism while on the job.

Vicki Albeitz explained the legend of Smokey Bear through the eyes of the veterinarian who took temporary care of the real-life incarnation of the American advertising icon. A respectable audience sat, raptly listening as Albeitz told the story of Smokey, noting his beginnings as an attempt by the Wartime Advertising Council to make people aware of wildfire dangers. The abstract Smokey was named after a famous firefighter named Smokey Joe , but it wasn’t until firefighters in New Mexico discovered a bear cub in serious danger during an actual wildfire that a tangible symbol of Smokey was created.

Albietz explained that although the original bear had since passed, Smokey’s messages live on. After the crowd engaged in a fire-related cheer, Smokey made his entrance to emphasize some of these important messages, such as “don’t play with matches” and the immortal “only you can prevent wildfires.” Much to my excitement, they even rapped some of them. Albietz also led the crowd of children in reciting the conservation pledge in which they promised to look after the land and its resources.  Smokey wrapped up the celebration with bear hugs for all, which, needless to say, was adorable.

            Next door to the birthday party was the Indy Admirals Remote Control Boats in the Fishin’ Pond. This was just a two-day deal, held on Saturday and Sunday. Speedy Kyle, who was manning the Admirals’ booth, informed me this was their second year at the fair, and there already had been a pretty good turn out. If you missed out this weekend, maybe look for them next year at the fair!

– Katy

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