HILL CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Standing at 30 feet tall and 25 feet wide, the largest Smokey Bear in the world is now located right here in South Dakota.
25 students from the Hill City School District helped battle a wildfire back in 1939. Because of that, the US Forest Service awarded them recognition of being the only school in the nation with Smokey Bear as their mascot.
“It’s a tradition that we want to uphold. There was a sense of pride in our community and in our forest so every time our athletes or our students put on that Smokey Bear uniform or dawn the emblem, were certainly proud of that,” Blake Gardner, Hill City Superintendent, said.
Today, people from the city, school officials, National Forest Service representatives, and artist Jordan Dahl stopped by to welcome Smokey to Hill City.
“Now, therefore, I, Kathy Skorzewski, mayor of the city of our city, on behalf of the citizens of our city do hereby recognize and welcome Smokey Bear on this 10th day of May 2021, as a permanent resident in our community,” Mayor Kathy Skorzewski said.
“Once we found out the story of Smokey Bear that really lead us to doing Smokey,” Dahl said.
Jordan Dahl says while the project took months of planning, it only took 10 days to build.
“So there were seven of us that worked on this project so we all kind of came together and used our own individual skills and put it together,” Dahl said.
A carving that not only honors the city’s history, but also reminds people to do their part to prevent wildfires.
Because the Hill City students helped to fight the wildfire in 1939, the National Forest Service also awarded them permission to have graduation at Mount Rushmore each year.