Home > /bestplate/

A message from the ALPCA President: 2020 Tulsa convention is cancelled - Frequently Asked Questions

ALPCA's Best Plate of 2019: Oregon


Québec Tamaoulipas Delaware Iowa Idaho Kentucky Montana North-Carolina New-York Oregon Rhode-Island Washington West-Virgina


By Gus Oliver #8407, Best Plate Award Coordinator

Oregon wins the Best Plate Award for 2019 with its Smokey Bear license plate by a significant margin. (I was advised by several members that the correct name is Smokey Bear and NOT "Smokey THE Bear" as I had it listed on the ballot - my apologies for the goof.) Nostalgia probably played a significant factor in Oregon's win. Bill Zimmerman #5658 commented, "Love the close up of Smokey!" This is the third time for Oregon to win this award. The first win was in 1988 with their general issue and again in 2002 with their Crater Lake which has been their best-selling option plate - at least until this plate debut.

Keep Oregon Green (KOG) chose to celebrate Smokey Bear's 75th Anniversary with the sale of this license plate. The plate was designed by DHX Advertising and finalized in December 2018. The required 3,000 prepaid vouchers were sold in 15 days. Plates went on sale in all DMV offices on August 1, 2019. KOG has plate #00001 on their van while #00002 through #00020 were sold on eBay for a total of just over $22,000. Zimmerman won plate #00005. These plates are available in a pre-numbered format as shown, or as a vanity. Plate sales to date have exceeded 15,000 pairs. KOG receives $35 of the extra $40 for the sale or renewal of each pair. A royalty of 10% of the proceeds goes to the USFS.

A huge fire started in Northeastern Oregon in August of 1933, which destroyed hundreds of square miles of timber. Several subsequent fires occurred in this area over the next few years - most of them attributed to human causes. This area became known as the Tillamook Burns. In response to the public outcry that resulted, roughly 250 Oregon leaders came together in April of 1941 to form the Keep Oregon Green Association. KOG's mission as stated on their website is to "promote healthy landscapes and safe communities by educating the public of everyones shared responsibility to prevent human caused wildfires."

During World War II, many of the firefighters were serving in the military so there was a shortage of personnel to fight forest fires. This was compounded by efforts of the Japanese to start fires on the west coast. In 1942, the U.S. Forest Service established the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention program. That same year, Disney's animated motion picture "Bambi" premiered. Walt Disney allowed his characters to appear in fire prevention public service campaigns for a year. A bear was then chosen as the permanent replacement.

The U.S. Forest Service created the legendary icon in 1944 with the help of artist Albert Staehle and, later, Rudolph Wendelin. The bear was named "Smokey" after "Smokey" Joe Martin, a New York City fireman who suffered burns and blindness during a bold 1922 rescue. This started their Wildfire Prevention Campaign which is the longest-running public service announcement in U.S. history. The original slogan was "Smokey Says Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires." In 1947, it was changed to "Remember ... Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires." It was again updated in 2001 to "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires." Smokey Bear's name and image are protected by the Smokey Bear Act of 1952.

In the spring of 1950, a 5-pound, 3-month-old cub was found that survived a wildfire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. He had climbed a tree to escape the blaze but his paws and hind legs had been burned. The cub was removed from the tree. A N.M. Fish & Game Ranger and his family cared for the cub. The state game warden offered the bear to the chief of the Forest Service if he would be dedicated to a conservation and wildfire prevention publicity program. The cub was originally called Hotfoot Teddy but was later renamed Smokey, after the icon, and flown to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he resided for 25 years until he retired in 1975 and then died a year later. He was listed in obituaries all across the nation. During his life at the zoo, he received millions of visitors and received thousands of letters every week - so many that he was given his own zip code, 20252, which is still in use today. When the first Smokey retired, his name was bestowed on Little Smokey in an official ceremony. Little Smokey died in 1990.

Like many others, I had (and still have) my Smokey Bear plush toy doll. I still remember the words to the "Smokey the Bear" song which no doubt is why I included "the" in his name. This plate brings back found memories for me and apparently many others as well.

Smokey won with 700 points compared to the runner-up, New York, for its 9/11 plate with 523 points. Washington came in a close third with 499 points for its San Juan Island plate which was nominated by seven members. All of the other plates were nominated by only one member. The Delaware entry was designed by ALPCA member Bernie Pankowski #9742.

Don Meyer #2263 commented on his ballot "They were all great!" A number of similar comments were expressed, as well as a few that expressed disappointment in the lack of better choices. I also want to thank those who expressed their appreciation for my efforts. A total of 466 ballots were cast by paper or email compared with last year's 548. I would like to thank everyone who participated in any way. Without your help, this event could never happen. We will post information on the ALPCA website about the presentation of the award once this is arranged.


1 Oregon 700
2 New York 523
3 Washington 499
4 West Virginia 425
5 Quebec 259
6 Iowa 253
7 Kentucky 231
8 Delaware 215
9 Idaho 211
10 Rhode Island 210
11 (tie) 
    Tamaulipas (Mexico) 201
    Montana 201
12 North Carolina 193

Total Points: 4,121
Total Votes: 466

Last updated: Sunday, 31-May-2020 01:27:07 UTC

Home | About ALPCA | Members area | Meets | FAQs | Payments | News | Links | Gallery | Hall of Fame | Changes | Site Status | Contact Us

Copyright © 1997-2020, ALPCA Inc.