"Happy Birthday Smokey!" an exhibition celebrating the 50th birthday of Smokey the Bear will be on display at UNLV's Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History from March 17 through April 29.
The exhibit features 50 years of memorabilia connected with Smokey, one of America's best known and best loved characters. The displays will include posters, songs, radio spots, television ads, comic books, coloring books, and Smokey teddy bears.
"Happy Birthday Smokey!" is more, however, than a nostalgic look back at Smokey. Hands-on, interactive displays will inform people about the importance of forests in today's world and explain the impact of accidental forest fires on both people and wildlife.
A reception set for 5 - 7 p.m. March 17 at the museum will mark the opening of the exhibit. The public is invited to attend.
Since 1944, Smokey has gently asked the public to prevent accidental wildfires and has reminded people of their responsibility to protect forests for future generations.
Smokey's campaign has been an unqualified success. Accidental wildfires caused by humans have been reduced by half since the Smokey campaign began, even though 14 times as many people visit forests today as in the 1940s.
While 95 percent of adults and 85 percent of children ages 8 to 12 recognize Smokey's timeless message "Only YOU can prevent forest fires," few know his unique history.
It began in 1942 when shells launched by a Japanese submarine landed near a forest in Southern California, bringing national attention to the importance of fire prevention. Because nine out of 10 forest fires were caused by people, the U.S. Forest Service worked with the Wartime Advertising Council to develop Smokey.
Over the years, Smokey has visited millions of children at schools and clubs and has starred in his own Saturday morning cartoon show. He has been joined by celebrities including Norman Rockwell, John Wayne, Raymond Burr, Red Skelton, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ray Charles.
Smokey's friends, most notably Woodsy Owl, will be introduced in the exhibit. Woodsy, with his slogan "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute," was created by the Forest Service in 1970 to promote the wise use of the environment.
"Happy Birthday Smokey!" was organized and is circulated by International Cultural Communications through a cooperative agreement with the Forest Service. It was designed by the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta and curated by Jean Pablo, president of Historic Preservation Associates.
Its presentation at UNLV is being sponsored in cooperation with the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area Toiyabe National Forest.
Since its premier, the exhibit has traveled to The Science Place in Dallas, the Natural History Museum Foundation of Los Angeles County, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
The Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History is open 8 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free.
For additional information on the exhibit or the reception, call 895-3381.