Iconic Wendelin Smokey Bear Paintings on Exhibit

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Date: April 24, 2015
Contact: Maureen McGee-Ballinger, 605-574-3115

KEYSTONE, SD: South Dakota dubbed the month of May "Wildfire Awareness Month." A very special exhibit will arrive to help us celebrate awareness and promote safety through beautiful artwork. The National Smokey Bear Collection is traveling throughout the region and will arrive at Mount Rushmore National Memorial to be on display through the month of May.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in conjunction with the South Dakota Wildland Fire Division, is hosting all of the nineteen replicas of Rudolph "Rudy" Wendelin’s Smoky Bear paintings. The replicas will be on display in the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, located below the Grand View Terrace, during normal operating hours. The exhibit opens Friday, May 1st and extends through Sunday, May 31st.

Smokey Bear was created during World War II to publicize the need to protect a critical natural resource – wood. To combat the incidence of human-caused forest fires, the United States Forest Service established the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention, CFFP, in 1942. The CFFP adopted Smokey as its official symbol two years later in 1944. Smokey Bear’s famous slogan, "Only you can prevent forest fires," was added in 1947 by the Wartime Advertising Council, known today as the Ad Council. Prominent among the Smokey Bear artists was Rudy Wendelin, whose rendering of Smokey helped humanize and soften the character, making him more appealing to children, to whom much of the fire prevention campaign was directed. Smokey’s message today has changed to, "Only you can prevent wildfires."

The Smokey Bear Collection at the National Agricultural Library consists of posters, proofs, mechanicals, original artwork, motion pictures, sound recordings, and memorabilia. The nineteen original Wendelin Smokey Bear paintings and their replicas are part of this collection.

South Dakota Wildfire Awareness Month is an interagency cooperation created to promote wildfire awareness, safety, and prevention through public events held throughout the Black Hills of South Dakota. Scheduled events serve to remind citizens of the dangers of wildland fire and the simple steps that should be followed to prepare for and prevent them. This year South Dakota has joined with six other states in a multi-state proclamation promoting wildfire awareness during the month of May.

To learn more about South Dakota Wildland Fire Awarness Month and to see other events, please visit www.sdwildfireawarness.com for additional information about Mount Rushmore National Memorial please visit the park web site at www.nps.gov/moru.

Last updated: April 26, 2015

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