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GRANTS PASS — Oregon Department of Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service, and Keep Oregon Green will be bringing a Smokey Bear balloon to the Grants Pass Balloon and Kite Festival.

The first weekend in June, Smokey Bear will be flying high with many other interesting kites and balloons. Grants Pass launches its Balloon & Kite Festival with a spectacular aerial show that features morning balloon flights, tethered balloon rides, a 10,000 square foot American Flag kite, colorful giant kites in special shapes, food vendors and other activities.

The balloon is an Aerostar SP-1, originally designed and built in 1987 by a group made up of public and private volunteers, private sponsors, and the U.S. Forest Service. The balloon is owned and operated by the nonprofit corporation Friends of Smokey Bear.

“Friends of the Smokey Bear Balloon, Inc. is a non-profit corporation of volunteers dedicated to assisting federal, state and local agencies to educate and convey messages to prevent human-caused wildfires,” Gwen Wynn said. “We also stimulate active support from schools, local fire departments, businesses, industries, civic club, and groups of persons interested in protecting America’s natural resources.”

This is year marks Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday. On Aug. 9, ODF will be celebrating the mascot’s three-quarters of a century promoting fire prevention.

Proceeds from the festival will support three organizations that work to improve the lives of local children who are abused, neglected or in un-ideal situations, and in need of a foster home, host home, or advocacy. The three organizations are CASA of Josephine County, Safe Families, and Every Child. 

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.

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