Smokey Bear turns 75, and New Jersey plans to celebrate
"Only you can prevent wildfires!"
Smokey Bear's iconic motto has resonated strongly in New Jersey for years. Now, with the nation's most famous bear turning 75 years old on Aug, 9, The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is having a big birthday bash for him, on Aug. 10 in Jersey City.
The rain-or-shine event is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Liberty State Park, Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Caryn Shinske said. The family-oriented event will be filled with children's activities, which are free. Parking is $7 per carload.
The day begins with Smokey Bear's unique arrival by helicopter, and then a meet-and-greet his fans.
There will be age-appropriate activities for children that will simulate the training processes that wildland firefighters go through, Shinske said. The day will also feature marching bands, a DJ playing music, a petting zoo, a scavenger hunt, multiple bounce houses, birthday cupcakes and various fire apparatus such as fire trucks, plows and more.
For those who want to get out of the heat and sun, there will be indoor activities at the Central Railroad Terminal Building at the park, including a display of vintage Smokey Bear posters.
Shinske said in addition, Smokey Bear public service announcements dating from the 1950s will play in a theater at the terminal building, as will as the Forest Fire Service's video entry for the nationwide "Smokey Bear Challenge," in which states are competing to come up with the best promotion of Smokey Bear's milestone birthday.
Shinske said what set New Jersey apart from the other states is that the Garden State has Smokey Bear in front of the Statue of Liberty.
"While this is a day of fun, it's also going to be a fun filled with education on how wildfires start, what you can do to prevent them and where they are prevalent," Shinske said.
At one time, Smokey Bear's signature catchphrase was, "Only you can prevent forest fires." But Shinske said because there has been a significant number of wildfires breaking out in natural areas other than forests over the years, his message has evolved into "Only you can prevent wildfires."
"So this is a great opportunity to come out, have some fun, enjoy the gorgeous views from Liberty State Park on a beautiful summer Saturday and learn why wildfire prevention is so important as well as basic fire safety," Shinske, said.
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