News Release

California Fourth-Grader Wins Top Honors In 2011 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest

Vaibhavi Patankar wins a trip, accommodations for four people to Washington, D.C., to pick up prize, tour the city

May 27, 2011 -

U.S. Forest Service Associate Chief Mary Wagner today announced that a Woodland Hills, Calif., elementary school student is the 2011 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest winner during a special ceremony at the annual meeting of the National Garden Clubs Inc., a Forest Service partner that organizes the contest.

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Vaibhavi Patankar, 8, won the fourth-grade category and then took top honors. She received round-trip airfare and accommodations for four to Washington, D.C., and will go home with a trophy and a $100 U.S. Savings Bond.

“Tens of thousands of children enter the contest every year, and their keen grasp of the fire prevention and conservation messages is dear to my heart,” Wagner said. “Vaibhavi did a fantastic job telling a story with her poster reminding us that we shouldn’t play with matches.”

Vaibhavi’s winning artistry is a poster within a poster, depicting Smokey Bear standing next to a poster of forest animals that has been set on fire with a match. Vaibhavi, the daughter of Dattatray and Manjusha Patankar, attends Welby Way Elementary School in West Hills, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles.

Students were asked to demonstrate through original 11-by-17 inch artwork their understanding of fire prevention and basic environmental conservation principles. Students were also asked to use in their drawings Smokey’s motto – “Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires” – or Woodsy’s motto – “Lend a Hand - Care for the Land.”

The Forest Service has been a leader in conservation education and recreational opportunities for more than a century, especially in programs such as More Kids in the Woods and this year’s decision to establish or expand nine Children’s Forests across the country.

The poster contest and the agency’s bounty of children’s programs support two key priorities of the Obama administration: President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative that seeks to connect people to the outdoors and creates partnerships between the federal government and American communities on conservation issues; and the Let’s Move Outside! campaign launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, which strives to offset childhood obesity issues through outdoor activities and healthier lifestyles.

This is the 50th year the National Garden Clubs has worked with the Forest Service to organize and promote the contest. The not-for-profit educational organization has nearly 200,000 members, with clubs in 50 states and the National Capital Area.