America’s fire prevention mascot, Smokey Bear, turns 75 years old this week. But after a year in which wildfires burned through large swaths of the western United States from California to Colorado, the icon’s career is far from over.
It all began on August 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council created the fictional bear to be the face of a new fire prevention campaign. Later, in 1949, the campaign gained a living Smokey Bear when firefighters rescued a cub with burned hind legs and paws from a fire in the Capitan Mountains in New Mexico. When that bear died in 1976, he was buried in what is now called Smokey Bear Historical Park near where he was found in New Mexico.
Because it’s such a major birthday, Smokey’s 75th is being celebrated with not just one but multiple birthday parties throughout the week. Here are a few you’re invited to attend this weekend:
Gila National Forest, Silver City, New Mexico
When: August 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Fort Bayard Bataan Park
What: Take a selfie with Smokey Bear, play games including cornhole and horseshoes, and see a 25-foot-tall Smokey Bear balloon at this party thrown by Gila National Forest in a town just outside of the park’s boundaries.
For more information, visit fs.usda.gov
Ruidoso, New Mexico
When: August 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Wingfield Park
What: Eat cupcakes, get your face painted, try sinking forest service staff at a dunk tank, take photos with Smokey Bear, and see another 25-foot-tall Smokey Bear balloon in this small town located about 70 miles west of Roswell.
For more information, visit ruidoso-nm.gov
When: August 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center
What: Give Smokey a hug, eat birthday cake, and climb the stairs of the historic fire lookout in central Washington State.
For more information, visit smokeybear75th.org
Filson stores in the United States
When: August 9 and August 10 at various times
Where: Stores in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and more
What: Filson stores across the country are hosting Smokey Bear birthday parties over the weekend with live music, beer and cocktails, and a s’mores bar. In addition to being able to shop Filson’s new Smokey Bear collection, guests can pick up free limited-edition Smokey patches, bandanas, and koozies. A percentage of sales proceeds from each event will be donated to the National Forest Foundation (percentage varies by store).
For more information, visit filson.com
To find an event near you, visit smokeybear75th.org
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.
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Lyndsey Matthews Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.