Balloon Festival Brings Wildfire Message to Texas

When the Smokey Bear hot air balloon comes to the Highland Village Lions Club's 24th annual festival Aug. 19-21, the Texas heat and fire prevention will be on everyone's mind.

The Smokey Bear hot air balloon is scheduled to visit Texas for the first time to appear at the Highland Village Lions Club's 24th annual Lions Club Balloon Festival and Fair Aug. 19-21. The event in the Denton County city on the shore of Lewisville Lake will attract thousands of people, and the Texas Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service will co-host a booth to share information about wildfire prevention. Staffers from the agencies also will assist as the ground crew to help launch the Smokey balloon.

The balloon is one of several maintained and displayed by an organization named Friends of Smokey Bear Balloon Inc. The hot air balloon is scheduled to make four appearances this fall, starting with the Aug. 19-21 festival and then appearing in Reno, Nev., Sept. 8-11; Alamogordo, N.M., Sept. 17-18; and Albuquerque, Oct. 1-9.

Texas is currently experiencing severe drought. As of Aug. 10, 248 of the state's 254 counties had imposed burn bans, and crews were battling large wildfires in several counties, the Texas Forest Service reported.

Created in 1944, Smokey the Bear turned 67 on Aug. 9. The iconic symbol is hardly old-fashioned, however, with a Facebook community of more than 40,000 people, along with Twitter and YouTube sites and a new Smokey the Bear mobile app that offers a campfire guide, wildfire map, classic images of Smokey, and more.

The Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Association of State Foresters launched the app and a new series of public service advertisements featuring Smokey on June 29, just before the July 4 holiday when many Americans go camping, have cookouts, and light fireworks. For more information, visit:

The Smokey Bear app is available for iPhone, iPad and iTouch via iTunes (http://bit.ly/mS5ylD) and Android devices via Amazon (http://bit.ly/koIuRU). Animax Entertainment developed the apps, and Cellit developed the mobile website.

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