In memory of the very real Smokey Bear who lived at the National Zoo until the 1970s, the zoo is honoring Smokey with an exhibit for his 75th Birthday. Called the Smokey Bear Zone, it’s now open and free to the public.
The exhibit opened today at Smithsonian’s National Zoo with an invitation for visitors to look back at the legacy of one of the most famous residents in the Zoo’s 130-year history. A public celebration at 10 a.m. followed brief remarks and a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Visitors to the Smokey Bear exhibit had an opportunity to meet Smokey Bear and members of the U.S. Forest Service. They were given free flags, magnets and other giveaways, courtesy of the Forest Service, which is commemorating 75 years of the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign.
The “real” Smokey Bear was rescued from a forest fire in New Mexico and lived at the Zoo from 1950 to 1976. As visitors stroll through the exhibit, they will see the rich stories of Smokey Bear the character and Smokey Bear the Zoo resident take shape. Archival photographs and 14 colorful posters line the pathway in front of Smokey Bear’s former habitat, teaching visitors about his legacy as an ambassador for wildfire prevention and wildlife conservation. Complementing this outdoor gallery are bilingual panels in English and Spanish highlighting the real Smokey Bear’s story and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s forest ecology research. The exhibit was made possible by the Forest Service.
We might be jumping the gun a little, but you need to know that Smokey Bear turns 75 this year. His birthday is usually celebrated on August 9, but there will be additional festivities this year — because 75 is evenly divisible by 25 and is three-quarters of the way toward 100.