We turn to the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Benefit for the fashion and celebrities. But this year, the 2019 Met Gala also featured an unexpected guest in the area: none other than Smokey the Bear, the anthropomorphic character who serves as the icon for the U.S. Forest Service in their long-running advertising campaign to protect the wilderness from human-caused fires. Since 1944, Smokey the Bear — officially named Smokey Bear — has been featured in ads warning campers about taking care of the wilderness and preventing fires. And now he’s become part of this year’s “camp” gala, too.
“I had to be there,” Smokey explained to TIME. “Being so close to Central Park, I wanted to make sure that there would not be any forest fires. I heard that the Met Ball would be on fire this year!”
Smokey arrived at the Met chauffeured by a human in a bicycle cab, and appeared outside of the gala’s entrance to mingle. Onlookers seemed unsure what to make of the giant furry creature in the midst of the glitz and glamour of the night, which featured stars like Lady Gaga making four outfit changes on the carpet, and Billy Porter showing up on a litter carried by six attendants. Then again, the zaniness of Smokey’s presence is in its own way exactly on-theme for “camp” — although Smokey might fit in more with the backwoods definition of the term than its fashion and taste counterpart.