Today happens to be my favorite bear's 75th Birthday! So, I’d like to tip my hat to the spirit of Smokey Bear and all he stands for, and even those things he never knew he’d come to represent. You see…
Our relationship began when I was five years old. He was 14’ tall, covered in fifteen yards of fur and rocking a campaign hat, a belt, and denim jeans. Oh, and he talked and was animatronic (…the coolest technology in the mid-seventies. LOL!) Year after year each August, he’d somehow remember my name when we visited the Ohio State Fair’s Department of Natural Resources exhibit. Something about it made me feel special and connected as he’d ask me to be kind to the environment and remind all of us: “Only you can prevent forest fires!”.
On family vacations, I’d see a version of him guarding entrance ways to every National Park and National Forest we’d visit. As time went on, I realized he became more than just a reminder of environmental stewardship. He transcended to become a symbol of welcome, too. After all, these were super happy places for me. Natural places were where I felt...well, my most natural, at ease, and most accepted. And, frankly, they still are.
Funny to say all this out loud. But, this is one of the reasons Smokey Bear stands proudly at the entrance to our shop. That kid in me hopes he serves a similar purpose to each passerby who sees him…you are welcome, you can be at ease, and please come as you are.
Happy Birthday, Smokey Bear!