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Coming up in 2024: Smokey Bear turns 80

A fire prevention legacy unmatched

Robert Hudson Westover
USDA Forest Service
December 14, 2023

A black and white photo of a black bear cub on top of the cowling of an airplane of the State of New Mexico, Department of Game and Fish.  A ranger stands next to the aircraft door looking at the bear cub.
Smokey on Airplane Cowling 1950 (USDA Forest Service image)

80 years is a tremendous milestone—for anyone. To make it to 80 means you have overcome life’s greatest challenges and you truly become the elder, the sage, the one who knows a thing or two and should be listened to. Being the spokes-bear, if you will, of the longest running and most successful advertising campaign in American history, at 80 years old, I think Smokey Bear would agree.

And so does the USDA Forest Service.

Illustrated logo of Smokey Bear behind 80th BIRTHDAY text.
Smokey Bear’s official 80th birthday is August 9, 2024, but the Forest Service will be celebrating all year! 
(USDA Forest Service and Ad Council art)

Smokey’s actual birthday is August 9. However, starting in January, the Forest Service which has, in cooperation with the Ad Council and the National Association of State Foresters, managed the image of Smokey Bear since the 1940s will launch a yearlong celebration. The kickoff will start with Smokey sharing his iconic phrase of Only You Can Prevent Wildfires in the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1.

In fact, across the country all sorts of activities are being planned from guest appearances at local events, a Facebook live stream from the California State Fair in July with Darley Newman, host of the PBS show Travels with Darley, and a social media campaign where the Forest Service is asking folks to sing Happy Birthday to Smokey with the hashtag #SingForSmokey.

Some of the #SingForSmokey videos will be streamed across numerous social media platforms on August 9 so get your vocal cords ready to belt for the bear! And the fun continues through the year with the Smokey Bear balloon appearing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the lighting of the US Capital Christmas Tree!

Three children watching a large Smokey Bear hot air balloon as it rises skyward.
Up, up and away in a beautiful balloon of Smokey Bear. (USDA Forest Service image)

To keep up on national events surrounding Smokey’s 80th, follow the Forest Service social media sites as well as the Ad Council’s Smokey Bear website and social media sites.

Despite the success of Smokey Bear’s campaign over the years, wildfire prevention remains one of the most critical issues affecting our country’s forests and grasslands. With over 80 percent of wildfires being started accidentally or by careless or bad behavior, Smokey's message is as relevant and urgent today as it was in 1944.

Help us get the word out about Smokey’s 80th by reposting official Forest Service or Ad Council social media posts or by telling all your friends and family that only they can help prevent wild fires by spreading Smokey’s messaging far and wide.

Smokey Bear posing with a group of musicians in the 1950's.
An unknown group of musicians pose with a cutout of Smokey Bear in the 1950s. (USDA Forest Service image)