SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – One of America’s most iconic environmental symbols – Smokey Bear – is turning 75 this year and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wants to celebrate this beloved bear’s birthday with a little dancing.
To honor Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday, MDC and the Missouri State University band are inviting the public to do the Hokey Pokey with Smokey on four nights at the MDC building on the west side of the Fairgrounds during this year’s Ozark Empire Fair. Here are the dates Smokey will be at the Fair to hokey pokey with his fans of all ages:
The dancing will occur, weather-permitting, at approximately 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on these select nights in front of the MDC building with music provided by MSU’s Brass and Sass Band. Inside the MDC building will be an assortment of Smokey Bear give-away items. Also on display in the MDC building will be live fish, snakes, and an assortment of free information on Missouri’s fish, forest, and wildlife resources. The Ozark Empire Fair runs from July 25 through August 3. The MDC building will be open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. each day of the fair.
Smokey Bear is a product of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council; but every state’s forestry agency – including Missouri’s – has adopted this congenial animal to help spread awareness about fire safety. Smokey Bear was created in 1944 amidst World War II concerns that America’s valuable forests could be harmed by accident or arson. Many generations can remember Smokey appearing at public events or in ads with his memorable message “Remember, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.”
Today, Smokey has a Twitter account, a website and an updated slogan – “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.” The change in wording recognizes fire danger in grassland, farming country and populated areas as well as forests.
Smokey has plenty of help in Missouri from MDC and volunteer fire departments. MDC provides grants and surplus federal equipment to volunteer fire departments in rural areas. In the just-completed fiscal year (which ran from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019) MDC awarded grants to 184 rural fire departments totaling $420,198 for safety and firefighting gear. The U.S. Forest Service also assisted with many of these grants..