Possibly the most famous animal mascot of all time, Smokey Bear, will serve the 2014 Festival as the Honorary Firefighters’ Marshal. Smokey Bear (often erroneously called Smokey the Bear) was created as an advertising mascot to help educate the public about the dangers of forest fires. An advertising campaign featuring Smokey was created in 1944 with the slogan, “Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires.” Smokey Bear’s later slogan, “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!” was created in 1947 by the Advertising Council. In April 2001, the message was updated to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.” According to the Ad Council, Smokey Bear and his message are recognized by 95% of all American adults and 77% of all American children. Though the U. S. Forest Service fought wildfires long before World War II, the war brought a new importance and urgency to the effort. The Forest Service began using colorful posters to educate Americans about the dangers of forest fires. Since most able-bodied men were already serving in the armed forces, none could be spared to fight forest fires on the west coast. The hope was that local communities, educated about the danger of forest fires, could prevent them from starting in the first place. Smokey’s debut poster was released on August 9, 1944, which is considered his anniversary date. Overseen by the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign, the first poster was illustrated by Albert Staehle. In it Smokey was depicted wearing jeans and a campaign hat, pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. Later in 1944, Forest Service worker, Rudy Wendelin, became the full-time campaign artist. He was considered Smokey Bear’s “caretaker” until he retired in 1973. The fictional character Smokey Bear, created by the art critic, Harold Rosenberg, is administered by three entities: the United States Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council. Smokey Bear’s name and image are protected by a U. S. Federal law: the Smokey Bear Act of 1952. Smokey’s appearance at the 2014 Festival is in celebration of an array of notable anniversaries: Smokey Bear celebrates his 70th birthday in 2014; each year, the Virginia Department of Forestry responds to over 1,100 wildfires in Virginia, and through their efforts, save more than 1,000 homes and other buildings; and, in 2014, the VDOF celebrates its 100th Anniversary as a state agency; and, for the VDOF, this is the 65th consecutive year of participation in the Apple Blossom Celebration.
The most famous animal in Winchester for the past year has been Kota, a German shepherd member of the K-9 Division of the Winchester Police Department. Organizers of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® are proud of the fact that Kota has “accepted their invitation” to serve as Honorary Grand Marshal of the 2014 Festival. K-9 Kota was injured in the line of duty in January and became an overnight sensation. On Friday, January 3rd, 2014, Kota was injured when he was assisting officers with a breaking and entering on Franklin Street. Two suspects were hiding in an attic crawl space; and, as Kota was apprehending one of them, he fell through the ceiling nearly 8 feet to the first floor of the house. The fall caused Kota to break his leg; but, even after his injury, Kota showed his dedication to his handler, Corporal Brittney Kotinski-Neer, by returning to her side on the second floor of the house. Kota underwent an extensive surgery to treat his broken leg. He also had a second surgery to replace a screw in his elbow. Kota is a 6-year-old German shepherd who has been on the force since May 2009. The community has shown tremendous support for Kota by sending well-wishes, cards, and donations to help pay for his veterinary bills. Kota’s story has touched hearts across the world. A Facebook page was created and to date has nearly 38,000 likes. Kota continues to undergo therapy and Kota and his veterinarians are optimistic that he will be able to return to duty in the future.