Ohio agency apologizes to dismissed fair volunteer

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman

COLUMBUS, OH (AP) - An Ohio agency has apologized to a volunteer who was dismissed from the task of voicing the giant Smokey Bear at the state fair after joking with a U.S. senator.

Paul Hammock of Columbus is among the volunteers who voice the tall bear mascot that greets visitors by name and is known for advocating the prevention of forest fires.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the 65-year-old Hammock was dismissed Aug. 5 after making a joke about gray hair to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.

Portman says the remark didn't bother him.

The Smokey Bear was in an area run by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. A department spokeswoman says she apologized to Hammock this week and told him he's welcome back next year.

Hammock says he'll return.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.