Smokey Bear – the second-most recognized figure in the world (after Santa Claus) – turns 75 years old this year.
Itasca State Park staff, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Red Lake Department of Forestry's Fire Prevention team feted the famous bear Thursday, while sharing fire prevention information.
Smokey Bear Day, an annual family-friendly event, was held July 18 both inside and outside of the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center.
Participants learned how firefighters get into a fire shelter, tried on protective gear, made a variety of Smokey-related crafts, listened to the story of the real Smokey Bear and much more.
Adults and children lined up for a photo with Smokey on Thursday.
Friends of Itasca volunteers dished up birthday cake and lemonade.
One spring day in 1950, in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, a game warden rescued a lone bear cub while battling forest fire. The orphaned cub suffered badly burned paws and hind legs. He was dubbed “Smokey” and news of his rescue spread nationwide.
Smokey’s fire prevention message is one of the longest-running public service ad campaigns.