WRAL.com at the State Fair

Smokey the Bear, Smokey the 21 Foot Really Huge Bear

Posted October 18, 2005

Need a quiet place to catch your breath after the nonstop noise of the midway and crowds of people waving turkey legs? I'll tell you one good place (I'll tell you a few more tomorrow.) Go down to Heritage Circle where you can get the apple cider and watch the lumberjacks. Keep going down the hill and you'll get to a bridge over the pond.

Pause at the bridge and look out over the water, note the lack of noise, and marvel that you're even at the fairgrounds. Continue across the bridge and the first right is Smokey the Bear.

Smokey the Bear is 21 feet tall -- the tallest Smokey Bear in the country. He doesn't live at the Fair full time but travels around the state, to carnivals and places like that. (He does stop at the Fair for its full run; he takes several hours to set up so they can't pull him down and set him up every day!)

Normally Smokey can move his arms, turn his head, and shake his shovel. "Unfortunately," James Kritzer told me, "He's had a power outage, so he went off to take a nap." James Kritzer is a public information officer for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

One of the great free entertainments of the Fair is to go up and chill with Smokey for a while, and watch the faces of the kids that come up the hill and get their first glimpse of him. They're overwhelmed, and who wouldn't be! He's enormous! "The kids can't believe it when they first see him," said James. "We give them stickers and tell them about Smokey."

If you want to visit Smokey you'll have to do it earlier in the day -- Smokey and the entire forestry exhibit are open only until 6. He starts up about 10 in the morning -- listen for the Smokey the Bear song as you walk down towards Heritage Circle.

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