Delta event celebrates Teddy and his bear

Rolling Fork, Miss., will be the site of a national celebration Oct. 18-19, commemorating the 100th anniversary of a famous hunting trip which gave birth to an American icon.

Federal and state agencies, joined by a committee of private citizens, organized “The Great Bear Affair: How Teddy and his bear changed America,” in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt's 1902 bear hunt near Smedes, Miss., which resulted in the creation of the most famous children's toy in the world — the teddy bear.

Theodore Roosevelt IV, great-great-grandson of the former president, is among the dignitaries who will attend.

Complete with the distortions and embellishments that accompany legends, the story of Teddy and his bear is indeed a famous one: A committed outdoorsman, Roosevelt went to Sharkey County, Miss., for a bear hunt on what was then Smedes Plantation (near what is now Onward, Miss.).

Guided by the legendary Holt Collier, the president's hunt had not been successful until its third day, when Collier, in an attempt to save a hound dog, knocked a bear unconscious with his rifle and subsequently tied it to a tree.

Roosevelt's decision to spare the creature caught the attention of a newspaperman traveling with the president's entourage. His story led Clifford Berryman to portray the event in his famous political cartoon “Drawing the Line in Mississippi,” influencing the popularity of the teddy bear.

Events scheduled for Oct. 19 include:

  • Music: The “musical whirlwind tour of Mississippi” (blues, country, rock-n-roll, bluegrass) provided by Tribute to Mississippi Music; classic soul, R&B and blues performed by These Days with Jewel Bass; the blues renditions of J.T. Watkins; the Southern rock and blues sounds of Willie Bearden and his band; and the gospel offerings of the Sharkey-Issaquena Mass Choir.
  • One the country's best-known Theodore Roosevelt impersonators, Keith McGough, will perform his one-man tribute to the former president.
  • A reunion of the descendants of those who participated in the original hunt.
  • Games, amusements, activities, storytelling and education seminars for children and adults.
  • A Theodore Roosevelt and Holt Collier look-alike contest.
  • A 5K run/walk, trail ride, bicycle race, birding tour and archaeological tours of area Native American sites dating between 500 BC and 1500 AD.
  • Book signing.
  • Vendors, including food, jewelry, candles, pottery, soap, teddy bears, and other traditional arts and crafts.
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