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Itasca State Park celebrates Smokey Bear

Mike Parisio, a forester and entomologist at the Bemidji DNR office, shared his parasitoid collection with youngsters. "These are all wild-harvested, tracked down by me with a bug net," he said, pointing to a large wasp with a three-inch tail. "This is the prime specimen here. This is a megarhyssa. That tail right there is the ovipositor. They can use that to bore all the way into the tree to get to larvae."1 / 6
Lianna Kobeoski explains how forest fire towers use alidades, or compass bearings, to pinpoint the location of a forest fire. Itasca's Aiton Heights fire tower is open to the public during the spring, summer and fall. Kailee and Enrique Ordaz, both 11, are visiting the park. They hail from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.2 / 6
A volunteer shares the true story of "Little Smokey," a black bear cub who was wounded and orphaned during a 1950 wildfire. “Little Smokey” was the live representation of Smokey Bear from 1975 to his death in 1990.3 / 6
Madeline, 4, Peter, 6, and William LaBerge, 8, receive a warm bear hug from Smokey. The Omaha, Neb. family participated in Smokey Bear Day while camping at Itasca State Park. (Photos by Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)4 / 6
Kari Jones, 13, from Pelican Rapids, quickly dresses in firefighting attire and knocks over cones in a relay contest. She competed against Alexis Scranton, 13, of Hayfield. The teens befriended each other while staying at neighboring campsites at Itasca State Park.5 / 6
Four-year-old Kamryn Carstensen practices blowing out "cake candles" with a bladder bag. Also called a backpack pump, a bladder bag is a collapsible pack made of neoprene or high-strength nylon fabric and fitted with a hand-pumped sprayer. Wildland firefighters carry bags filled with up to five gallons of water, which can be sprayed on the fuel at the base of flames in order to cool it before digging. 6 / 6

Smokey Bear, along with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources firefighters, reminded Itasca State Park visitors about the importance of preventing wildfires.

Itasca's Smokey Bear Day, an annual family-friendly event, was held July 20 both inside and outside of the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center.

Participants learned how firefighters get into a fire shelter, discussed campfire safety, made a variety of forest crafts, explored fire trucks and equipment and much more.

Children eagerly lined up for a photo with the famous bear.

Friends of Itasca volunteers dished up chocolate or strawberry sundaes, with proceeds going toward projects in Itasca State Park.