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Smokey Bear, the face of the longest-running public service announcement campaign, turned 75 this year, continuing his legacy of bringing awareness to unwanted, human-caused wildfires in the U.S.
To celebrate this milestone, Texas A&M Forest Service is throwing a birthday bash on Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
“We’ve celebrated Smokey’s birthday all year with community parties, new wildfire education curriculum, license plates and a ‘Smokey Bear Road Show,’ where Smokey traveled to all 254 county courthouses in the state,” said Karen Stafford, Texas A&M Forest Service program
leader. “But we wanted to have the culminating party—the biggest bash—in College Station, where Texas A&M Forest Service is headquartered.”
The Smokey Bear Birthday Bash will feature the official Friends of Smokey Bear hot air balloon. The balloon will travel from Albuquerque, New Mexico for the party, marking only the second time it has been in Texas.
The birthday bash will also feature face painting, piñatas, T-shirt cannons, a dunking booth, more than a dozen carnival-style games, educational booths, bounce houses, arts and crafts and free cupcakes, cookies and ice-cream.
“We wanted to invite the Friends of Smokey Bear balloon to College Station because a legacy as great as Smokey’s deserves the celebration to match,” Stafford said.
Since 1944, Smokey Bear’s wildfire prevention campaign has made a dramatic impact. This progress continues today, with an approximate
14% reduction in the average number of human-caused wildfires from 2011-2018, compared to the previous 10 years.
“While Smokey’s work has been successful in the state of Texas, almost nine out of 10 wildfires are still human-caused, which means Smokey’s message is as important as ever,” Stafford said. “Texans are living closer to what we call the ‘wildland-urban interface,’so there’s no retirement for Smokey.”
Across the state, Texas A&M Forest Service helps Texans mitigate wildfire risk by working with communities to establish Community Wildfire Protection Plans and by implementing wildfire preparedness programs like “Ready, Set, Go!”, Firewise USA® and the agency’s newest program, the Texas Ranch Wildfire Program, which launched earlier this year.
“Texas A&M Forest Service has wildland urban interface specialists across the state to help prepare communities for wildfires,” said Stafford. “As a citizen, you can’t control a wildfire, but you can prepare for one.”
A Continuing Legacy
After the birthday bash, the celebration of Smokey’s legacy will continue—taking to the skies again—but this time with the debut of his new character balloon in the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
A fan-favorite balloon, Smokey Bear first debuted in the 1966 Macy’s Parade and participated in the holiday spectacle every year until 1981. In celebration of his 50th birthday in 1993, Smokey made his last appearance before this year’s return.
Texas State Forester Tom Boggus will be holding one of Smokey Bear’s character balloon ropes, guiding America’s national champion of wildfire prevention through the streets of New York City in Smokey’s return to the world-famous Macy’s parade lineup.
Smokey can be seen during the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, airing nationwide on NBC, Nov. 28, from 9 a.m. to noon, in all time zones.