Published 12:00 am Monday, October 21, 2002

visit Delta to honor a man, a bear and a hunt

ROLLING FORK A great-grandson of the president whose visit a century ago led to the creation of the teddy bear told about 1,500 festival-goers Saturday that the natural resources of the area are “immense.”

Theodore Roosevelt IV, who is in the investment business in New York City and is active in conservation efforts including some in the lower Delta, spoke to most of the Great Delta Bear Affair crowd of about 1,500.

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“The untapped resources around Rolling Fork are immense,” he said, citing as an example the large numbers of migrant birds that fly north and south annually above the Mississippi River and the area’s potential for capturing more of the growing numbers of people who watch them as a hobby.

Roosevelt’s speech ended when the crowd in front of the outdoor stage, across from the Sharkey County Courthouse which, he noted, is also 100 years old this year sought cover when it began to rain shortly after 2 p.m.

Bear-hunt commemoration activities had begun with a 10:30 a.m. dedication of a kiosk near the site where President Theodore Roosevelt, on a five-day bear-hunting trip in 1902, refused to shoot a black bear that was knocked out and tied up for him to shoot. A famous cartoon by Clifford Berryman depicting Roosevelt’s refusal appeared on the front page of the Nov. 16, 1902, Washington Post, and the creation of the first teddy bear followed.

Activities around downtown Saturday included inflatable slides for children, an outdoor rock-climbing wall, live rhythm-and-blues on the stage and storytelling in the library. Included among offerings from courthouse-lawn booths were food, furniture, stuffed toy animals, crafts, hunting gear and information on conservation efforts.

For some, the festival was a welcome chance to get together with family and friends.

“It’s really good for the town, getting everybody back together,” said Carl Thornhill, who drove from Jackson with his wife and son. “We all need more of that. I graduated (from Rolling Fork High School) in 1968 and I’ve probably seen half my class.”

Saturday morning’s events included a foot race, a bird walk and a trail ride in the Delta National Forest near here and van tours of native Indian and wildlife-refuge sites.

Keith McGough, who travels the country making motivational speeches as Theodore Roosevelt, also dressed and spoke as the nation’s 26th president, from 1901 to 1909. During his presidency, land area under public protection increased by 230 million acres, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Forestry services were created.

“The last time I was in this region, most of the trees had been cut,” he said, speaking as Roosevelt. “I looked around and all I saw were stumps. I’m back today and I’m seeing mature oak, loblolly pine and long pine. You have your trees back and you’re fortunate.”

McGough, a motivational speaker, also highlighted Roosevelt’s risk-taking nature.

“I like to think of the people down here in the Delta as people who will strive for something of some significance,” he said.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove was at the festival, but did not speak from the stage because of the rain.

Roosevelt noted the Legislature’s recent designation of the teddy bear as the state toy and commented on his great-grandfather’s warm feelings for his hosts and the area itself.

“The rest of the country just doesn’t know what it’s missing down here,'” he quoted the president as saying.

In a wide-ranging speech on matters including environmental and land-ownership issues, he also highlighted the effort under way to restore the Louisiana black bear to the Delta.