Smokey Bear is an American campaign and advertising icon created by the U.S. Forest Service with artist, Albert Staehle. In the Wildfire Prevention Campaign, which is the longest-running public service announcement campaign in United States history, the Ad Council, the United States Forest Service (USFS), and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), in partnership with creative agency FCB, employ Smokey Bear to educate the public about the dangers of unplanned human-caused wildfires. A campaign began in 1944 featuring Smokey and the slogan "Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires". His slogan changed to "Remember... Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires" in 1947 and was associated with Smokey Bear for more than five decades. In April 2001, the message was officially updated to "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires" in response to a massive outbreak of wildfires in natural areas other than forests (such as grasslands), and to clarify that Smokey was promoting the prevention of unplanned outdoor fires, not prescribed burns. Smokey has also had other lines throughout the years, but these have remained his central slogans. According to the Ad Council, 80% of outdoor recreationists correctly identified Smokey Bear's image and 8 in 10 recognized the campaign PSAs.

Smokey Bear's name and image are protected by the Smokey Bear Act of 1952 (16 U.S.C. 580 (p-2); 18 U.S.C. 711). Smokey's name has always intentionally been spelled differently from the adjective "smoky".

History with the Macy's Parade

Smokey Bear v.1 (1966)

Concepts of a Smokey Bear balloon have dated back as early as 1962. Goodyear rejected the idea, though the reasoning behind this is unknown. After being put on the back burner for over three years, he would finally take shape as a balloon in the Parade.

The Smokey Bear balloon first appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1966, making his debut alongside with Superman’s 2nd version of the balloon. The 58-foot tall balloon was sponsored by the General Electric Company which gave publicity to a network television animated special, "The Ballad of Smokey Bear", which aired later that evening. The balloon became an instant Parade mainstay, as made 16 consecutive appearances before his brief retirement in 1981. 12 years later, he would come out of hibernation to celebrate his 50th birthday in 1993. This version of Smokey was permanently retired that same year, and his original balloon would never appear in the Parade since. Two years later, the balloon later appeared at the 1995 edition of Macy's Balloon-A-Thon, marking this as the original Smokey balloon's last public appearance.

Smokey was carried by New Milford Fire Company #2 from 1966 to 1979. The Fire Company, from New Milford, NJ, returned as an escort to Smokey lead by the Fire Department Color Guard in 1980, Macy's employees carried the Bear in 1980-81 and 1993.

The original Smokey Bear balloon still exists in the float warehouse, and is one of the oldest surviving balloons along with Happy Dragon, with only the brim of his hat missing.

Smokey Bear v.2 (2019)

After an absence that lasted 26 years, Smokey made his grand return in the 2019 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, this time as a brand-new heritage balloon to celebrate his 75th birthday. This balloon is almost identical to the original Smokey Bear balloon, but with a more modern design technique, and is smaller in size, measuring 51 feet tall, 16 feet long, and 25 feet wide. Additionally, with the return of the new Smokey Bear, 20 members of the New Milford Fire Department were members of Smokey's Balloon Crew, carrying him down to Herald Square.

In the re-imagined 2020 Parade, Smokey was showed through pre-recorded footage from 2019 on the NBC broadcast

As a Walkaround

While the Smokey Bear balloon was absent at the time, he appeared as a walkaround alongside Woodsy Owl, Thermy, BAC and Power Panther (All USDA characters) in 2000.

He later reappeared in a costumed-character version on two special anniversary floats, along with hordes of children's characters represented by past parade balloons: the Toon Balloon-Abration float in 2001, and the Hats Off To Our Heritage float in 2011.


  • In 1971, Smokey was going to be one of the only three balloons to still be able to fly despite extreme weather, but high winds caused him (Alongside Astronaut Snoopy and Happy Dragon) to escape from his netting, tearing his hat open in the process, and all three balloons were taken out of the lineup as a result. While Smokey did survive the night, he was still removed due to safety reasons, and therefore there could not be any balloons at all that year.
  • In 1975, Smokey's right hand was punctured by a tree at Columbus Circle. As a result, the hand became deflated, but he survived the parade route.


  • In 1974, 1980, and 1981, the blade of Smokey's shovel was bent.
  • In 1981 and 1993, Smokey's head was bent, Due to the age of the balloon.


Below, you will find a list of the music that played during the balloon's appearance on the NBC telecast

  • The Ballad of Smokey Bear Theme Song (1966)
  • The Bear Comes Over The Mountain (Milton DeLugg Version) (1967-1981, 1993)
  • Generic Macy's Music (2019)


Gallery: Smokey Bear

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