January 11, 2022
The city of International Falls, Minnesota is famous for two things. Once, its really, really cold (it prides itself as the “Icebox of the Nation” — it averages 100 days a year with a high temperature below freezing). Two, it boasts a 26-foot-tall statute of Smokey Bear (situated, fittingly enough, in the middle of Smokey Bear Park). And for years, residents of International Falls have adorned the statute with seasonal attire, such as fishing gear during the summer months, or earmuffs, mittens and a 25-foot-long scarf in the winter.
But no more.
When International Falls Mayor Harley Droba spoke with other Minnesota towns with giant statutes (Paul Bunyan in Bemidji, the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth), he learned that they “thought it was kind of crazy” that Smokey was getting dressed up. So the city council recently voted to stop dressing Smokey up. Council member Mile Holden explained that, while he would miss decorating Smokey, “they don’t want the importance of Smokey the Bear to be degraded.”