The Ohio State Fair is full of tradition. For many families, one notable tradition is to be greeted by name by the iconic Smokey Bear.

Smokey Bear was brought into the wildfire prevention service in 1944 by the efforts of the U.S. Forest Service. Fifteen years after his debut, Smokey made his home here at the Ohio State Fair in 1959. Since then, the famous bear’s presence has become something children and adults alike look forward to each year.

Aside from promoting fire prevention and safety practices, Smokey Bear is best known for greeting fair visitors by their first names when they visit him in the 8-acre Natural Resources Park located at the southeast corner of the grounds. He stands next to a pavilion full of interactive natural resources and recreation opportunities. The park includes entertainment programs throughout the day and educational exhibits that highlight subjects such as Ohio wildlife, a tall grass prairie and a 1800s themed log cabin.

For years, Smokey has worn gigantic Levi blue jeans made from approximately 14 yards of material. The original bear has interacted with and encouraged more than five decades of Fair visitors to take the pledge to “never, ever play with matches or leave any fire unattended,” during his time at the Ohio State Fair.

This year, though, Smokey will have an exciting change.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will unveil a brand-new, 14-foot tall animatronic version of Smokey Bear at the 2015 Ohio State Fair. The original Smokey Bear, who spent 55 years teaching fire prevention to children and their families, will be transitioning into a well-deserved retirement.

The new Smokey will possess qualities that make him even more lifelike. His moving arms, head and mouth will create a more realistic and engaging experience for fairgoers who visit him.

The 2014 Ohio State Fair may have marked the end of the original Smokey Bear’s career, but it did not mark the end of the bear’s legacy as it will continue through the brand new 21st century Smokey Bear for many years to come. Make it a point this year to visit the brand new Smokey Bear any day of the Ohio State Fair. Smokey’s hours of operation are 11 am to 6 pm daily.