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ANF preps Smokey Bear birthday celebration

Times Observer file art This image of Smokey Bear from the ‘Fire Danger’ sign at ANF headquarters along Rt. 62 shows the current iteration of Smokey Bear most anyone could recognize. The very first image of a bear pouring water on a campfire was created in 1944 by artist Albert Staehle, a notable artist who painted 26 covers for The Saturday Evening Post.

The Allegheny National Forest is planning a birthday party.

In whose honor? Smokey Bear.

ANF Public Affairs Officer Christopher Warner said the party will be held on Saturday, August 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kinzua Beach pavilion area.

“In addition to wishing Smokey Bear a Happy Birthday, we will have several activities for children to interact with Smokey, engage with Forest Service staff and learn about the Forest and fire safety,” Warner explained. “Be on the lookout for children’s contest opportunities on our social media.

Smokey Bear was “born” on August 9, 1944 when the Bear’s creation was authorized by the Forest Service, according to historical information on Smokey from the ANF.

“Two months later a poster depicting a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire was delivered by artist Albert Staehle,” according to the ANF. “Smokey Bear soon became popular, and his image began appearing on more posters and cards. By 1952, Smokey Bear began to attract commercial interest.

“An Act of Congress passed which removed Smokey from the public domain and placed him under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture. The Act provided for the use of collected royalties and fees for continued wildfire prevention education.”

In 1950 a cub was rescued in New Mexico and ultimately given to the Forest Service “as long as the cub would be dedicated to a conservation and wildlife prevention publicity program.” The cub then came to his new home at the National Zoo, where he lived until 1976 when he died.

And his name is actually Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear.

From the ANF: “In 1952, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote the popular anthem that would launch a continuous debate about Smokey’s name. To maintain the rhythm of the song, they added ‘the’ between ‘Smokey’ and ‘Bear.’ Due to the song’s popularity, Smokey Bear has been called ‘Smokey the Bear’ by many adoring fans, but, in actuality, his name never changed. He’s still Smokey Bear.”