Photos: Bear Hug

Sorrow and horror show in kids’ faces, lower left, as they watch a film telling Smokey Bear’s story: He was created in 1944, and now Smokey and his current motto — “Only you can prevent wildfires” — are recognized by 95 percent of Americans. The first living symbol of Smokey was a cub rescued in 1950 from a wildfire in New Mexico.

Smokey himself appeared on Monday, a day off from school for Columbus Day, and gave a big hug to a girl who had his portrait painted on her cheek, center. He exchanged high fives with a boy as a ranger looked on, below.

The annual event was hosted by the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center to teach visitors about wildfire prevention and the use of prescribed fire as a management tool in the Pine Bush Preserve. The day included races, games, and crafts — as the boy, at top, carefully colors a bookmark.

Photographs by Michael Koff

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