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Smokey Bear artwork to be displayed at Pioneer Park Historical Complex in Rhinelander this week

Rudolph Wendelin
/
US Forest Service
Smokey Bear art created by Rudy Wendelin.

Between 1977 and 1995 Rudy Wendelin created 19 portraits of Smokey Bear with his blue jeans and ranger hat.

Wendelin worked for the USDA Forest Service as an illustrator beginning in 1933.

“Rudolph Wendelin, also known as Rudy Wendelin, was, at one time, a US Forest Service artist. That was his job. He was responsible for creating the portraits of Smokey Bear for many years,” said Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest Public Affairs Officer Veronica Hinke. “They're some of my favorites, they’re color portraits, and he made them to tell the message that is so important.”

US Forest Service
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 2-7, 2024.

Smokey Bear’s classic message ‘Only you can prevent wildfires’ has long been drilled into public land visitors.

It started 80 years ago when Smokey Bear was first created, and it is still used to remind people to be mindful of their cook and campfires.

“If it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave it. So, douse it good with water, make sure you cover it up with dirt with a shovel that you have with you when you're camping. Make sure that you get your fire out really good and cold,” said Hinke.

The Wendelin Smokey Bear collection is traveling throughout the U.S. this year.

In honor of Smokey Bear’s 80th birthday and coinciding with National Forests Week, Wendelin’s artwork will be on display at the Pioneer Park Historical Complex in Rhinelander this week.

“The location is just the ideal place for an exhibition of historic Smokey Bear portraits because where the portraits will be displayed looks like a cabin where Smokey Bear would live,” said Hinke. “It's just really idyllic and we're so pleased and grateful to our partners to be able to have the exhibition there.”

The Forest Service is also incorporating the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Top-Chef inspired theme of ‘Culinary’ this year by hosting a dessert competition during the opening reception Tuesday evening. Information about how to enter the contest is available online, here.

“We really want everybody to consider putting their best foot forward with a wonderful dessert and be willing to share it with everyone,” said Hinke. “We're looking for homemade items, and we really want everyone to get creative. We've been trying to encourage people to think about putting honey into their recipes, because of course Smokey Bear loves honey. And working with indigenous ingredients like a wild rice cake, for example, with cranberries, or something kind of different like that.”

The artwork will be on display July 2nd through July 7th.

The opening reception is Tuesday, July 2nd from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The artwork is available for viewing anytime the Pioneer Park Historical Complex is open, which is:

Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday 12 to 4 p.m.

Pioneer Park is closed July 4th in observance of Independence Day.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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