Historic Smokey Bear Portraits Will Be on Display in WI 

Historic Smokey Bear Portraits Will Be on Display in WI 

ABOVE PHOTO:  In a 1980 portrait by USDA FS artist Rudy Wendelin, Smokey Bear calls out: “Green and clear here,” as he drives away after checking out a USDA FS campground. “Ten Four, Green and Clear,” will be one of 19 replica Smokey Bear portraits on display at the Pioneer Park Historical Complex in Rhinelander, Wisconsin July 2-10, 2024.   

USDA Forest Service officials announced today that historic portraits of Smokey Bear will soon arrive in Wisconsin from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library in Washington, D.C. for a special exhibition in Rhinelander. The public will be able to view the portraits for free at the Pioneer Park Historical Complex July 2-7, 2024, which is during National Forest Week

The special exhibition will call attention to fire safety during one of the busiest recreation weekends of the season. The portraits are also being brought to Wisconsin in celebration of Smokey Bear’s milestone 80th birthday.   

“We are pleased and honored to be able to work with the USDA Forest Service in hosting this very special Smokey Bear exhibition during National Forest Week,” said Pioneer Park Historical Complex Director and Curator Kerry Bloeborn. 

An Opening Reception will be held at the Pioneer Park Historical Complex on Tuesday, July 2, 5 to 7 p.m. The reception is free and open to the general public. There will be activities for all ages. 

  • Test your Smokey Bear and fire safety knowledge in the Quiz Game.
  • Make a Birthday Card for Smokey Bear.
  • View recently digitized vintage Smokey Bear films from the National Agricultural Library.
  • Enter the Birthday Desserts Competition.

To tie in with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Top Chef Wisconsin-inspired theme for 2024, which is “Culinary,” the opening night reception in Rhinelander will feature a special Smokey Bear birthday dessert competition. Information about how to enter the contest is available online, here.

Legendary USDA Forest Service artist Rudolph (Rudy) Wendelin created the 19 portraits of Smokey Bear, and more, from 1977 through 1995. Wendelin worked for the USDA Forest Service as an illustrator beginning in 1933 and was the mastermind behind Smokey Bear’s signature ranger hat and blue jeans. Thanks to Wendelin’s art, Smokey Bear’s message “Only YOU can prevent wildfires” has prevailed through generations. 

“These 19 portraits are some of the most beloved depictions of Smokey Bear,” said USDA FS Public Services Staff Officer Kaleigh Maze. “We are looking forward to working with our partners with the Pioneer Park Historical Complex to share this very special artwork in Wisconsin during this milestone year for Smokey Bear and this important week for fire safety reminders.”

The Wendelin Smokey Bear collection will be in Rhinelander midway through a year-long road show that is traveling throughout the U.S. So far, the portraits have been displayed at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic MonumentSmokey Bear Historical ParkGrey Towers National Historic Site, and more.

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