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A famous Smokey the Bear statue here in Minnesota will soon be going through some changes-- and will be losing some clothes.

If you've ever been to International Falls here in Minnesota, (which I haven't, seeing as it's just under a 6-hour drive from Rochester!) you might be familiar with the giant, 26-foot tall Smokey the Bear statue. It's a prominent feature of Smokey Bear Park, located right on the Rainy River in International Falls.

But Smokey will soon be getting naked.

Well, he won't really be naked per se, he'll still be wearing his familiar pair of jeans, but he won't be sporting the Viking-colored scarf, ear muffs and mittens during the winter or familiar fishing gear he used to wear in the spring and summer.

That's because the International Falls City Council voted last week to prohibit the classic statue from being dressed in anything other than his usual ranger hat, blue jeans and belt with the 'Smokey' belt buckle.

This MPR story says, even though residents of International Falls have been dressing Smokey up for most of Minnesota's four seasons for decades, city leaders have now decided against continuing the practice.

I figured it might have been a cost-cutting measure, but the story says it is more an issue of not cheapening or degrading the image of the iconic character, whose likeness is still governed by the US Forest Service.

Well, the cost is involved, too. The story noted that the city recently spent $30,000 to restore the statue, which was first put up in 1954, and doesn't want someone to damage it while outfitting Smokey with a scarf or pair of ear muffs or mittens.

So, yeah, it looks like Smokey will be getting naked up in International Falls. Or, more accurately, he'll be going topless again-- like most other Smokey the Bear statues.

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