This year, Smokey Bear turns 75 years old, and to celebrate, an exhibit of historical portraits of Smokey by artist Rudolph Wendelin will be traveling across the nation with a stop currently at the Centennial Visitor Center on Hwy 130, where the iconic prints will be on display until July 7.
The traveling exhibit is hosted in Wyoming by the Laramie Ranger District, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, and Thunder Basin National Grassland.
“People are really enjoying looking at them,” said U.S. Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist Aaron Voos. “It’s Smokey Bear. Who doesn’t love him?”
Wendelin created hundreds of Smokey representations that highlighted national resource conservation and wildfire prevention, but his humanized representation of Smokey Bear is the one most commonly associated with him today. Wendelin is the one responsible for Smokey’s ranger hat, jeans, and shovel.
The popular icon representing fire prevention was created in WWII as a means of publicizing the country’s need to help protect wood, a critical natural resource at the time. To help diminish the number of human-caused forest fires, the U.S. Forest Service created the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program in 1942, which two years later adopted Smokey Bear and his iconic slogan warning people that “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
After leaving Centenial, Smokey will be heading over to Cheyenne where the portraits will be hosted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at the state museum July 15 – 28.
The traveling exhibit is on loan from the National Agricultural Library.