K-9 Kota and Smokey Bear, Honorary Parade Marshals

- WINCHESTER, Va. - Smokey Bear, an American icon, will be the honorary firefighter's marshal for this year's Apple Blossom Firefighter's Parade. But Smokey wasn't created out of thin air.

"My father was a radio announcer out of D.C. and he was also known for doing character voices,” said Mark Weaver. “One day he got a call from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the guy said, 'Jackson, how would a bear talk?' and so my father said 'Oh I think a bear would talk something like this.' And that's how he got the job."

Weaver was the voice of Smokey the Bear for decades, which his son said is now making a comeback.

"There seems to be a Smokey the Bear revival. There's this spot on TV where Smokey the Bear comes up and gives this guy a bear hug, so to speak. And there's now this Smokey the Bear t-shirt that's becoming popular among the hipster set,” said Weaver.

Another popular character is Winchester’s very own K-9 Kota, a German Shepherd who was injured in the line of duty last January.

"He was injured January 3, and by January 5, he had gone viral,” said Cpl. Neer.

Kota's loyalty won the hearts of the four-state region because even after falling through an attic, and sustaining multiple injuries, police say he managed to crawl to his handler while she apprehended another subject.

"In our area, it's huge. You don't live in Winchester very long and not have heard of Apple Blossom. So for the Apple Blossom Committee to honor him by selecting him as honorary grand marshal, that's a big deal,” said Cpl. Neer.

Organizers say the firefighter parade is next Friday at 5:30 p.m., and the grand feature parade will be next Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

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