“Only you can prevent wildfires!” was a constant slogan colored on almost every poster on the art bulletin board located in the front hallway of the Boys and Girls Club. Eyes casually darted to the colorful drawings causing parents, kids, and staff members to stop walking and admire the talent that was displayed for the world to see. Every week, new ones were hung and some of the older ones retired in the hands of their young artist proudly showing his mom the drawing and to any passerby that was in earshot. This was the start of the annual Smokey the Bear Competition and kids and adults alike were tremendously enthusiastic.
The club kids start on their Smokey the Bear posters in September and they are collected by a Garden Club Sponsor in November. Louiser Keel, art instructor at the Boys and Girls Club and Ryan Brown, unit director, ensured that the students followed the strict guidelines of the competition. For instance, spelling the mottos correctly is sternly enforced and Smokey the Bear has to appear on the poster as he would on any commercial advertisement. Elizabeth Gillespie, President of the Spade and Trowel Garden Club, works as the liaison between the club and the competition. Her Garden Club passionately sponsors the contest each year. There are certain cash prizes for state level competitions and the winner’s drawing goes on to compete nationally.
The Boys and Girls club kids have submitted several posters from each age group. Two winners were awarded the 1st place regional title for the first time in the five years that the Boys and Girls Club has competed in the contest. Posters from Kaydince Nabb and Taleena Bellamy placed 1st at the regional level. Nabb’s drawings went on to finish 2nd at the state level competition.