Capitan’s Smokey Bear Days set for next weekend

Compiled by William P. Thompson: Freedom Newspapers

Capitan’s Smokey Bear Days set for next weekend

Yes, Smokey Bear was a real bear and he was rescued from a forest fire near Capitan. That’s why Capitan holds a “Smokey Bear Days Celebration” once a year. Now a U.S. Forest Service icon known all over the world, Smokey Bear comes in the form of a “mascot” these days and will be on hand at the celebration next weekend May 5 and 6 in Capitan to interact with Smokey Bear fans of all ages.

The town of Capitan has a street dance planned for 7 p.m. Saturday. A parade down Smokey Bear Boulevard begins at 10 a.m. that day. Friday will be a day devoted to arts and crafts, and the bulk of the festivities will take place Saturday.

Country singer Terry Bullard has been getting some national press recently and he will be the marquee performer at the street dance. Musicians and singers will hit the stage immediately after the parade to entertain passersby all day long. Food vendors will be set up along Smokey Bear Boulevard, and an antique car show will take place within easy walking distance of the entertainment area.

Capitan is about 20 miles north of Ruidoso. From Portales, take U.S. 70 west to Roswell. Take U.S. 285 into Roswell then pick up U.S. 70 west again and follow it to U.S. 380. Turn right on U.S. 380 and follow it into Capitan. It’s a journey of a little more than three hours.

Many people call him “Smokey the Bear” because of a popular song penned back in the 50’s. Smokey Bear is the orphan cub’s official name. In 1950, a bear cub was found up in a smoldering tree during a forest fire in the mountains near Capitan. Badly burned on his paws and hind legs, a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish ranger saw to it that the bear got proper medical care. The national media got wind of the cub’s rescue and before long, the U.S. Forest Service had made the cub a symbol of its forest fire prevention efforts. The cub was housed at the National Zoo in Washington while his animated namesake began telling folks, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.”

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The celebration events are free. Lawn chairs are recommended. The Smokey Bear Historical Park, a three-acre state park in Capitan, will be open with the state parks’ usual $5 per vehicle day-use fee. The park can be reached at 354-2748.