On this day in 2004, Winnie's Hometown Festival kicked off for 3 days in White River, Ontario, Canada. An annual event (held every third week in August) since 1988, the festival celebrates the real bear who was the inspiration for A. A. Milne's lovable character Winnie the Pooh.
On August 24, 1914 (during World War I) troops from Winnipeg were being transported to eastern Canada when the train made a stop in White River. Aboard the train was a lieutenant named Harry Colebourn who, during the stop in White River, purchased a small female black bear cub for $20. It wasn't uncommon for soldiers to purchase mascots and Colebourn (also a veterinarian) felt sorry for the little bear as its mother had been killed by a hunter. Colebourn named the bear Winnie - after his hometown of Winnipeg.
Winnie became the mascot of the 34th Fort Gary Horse of Winnipeg, Canadian Infantry Brigade and traveled to Britain with the soldiers. When Colebourn was ordered to go to the battlefields of France, he took Winnie to live at the London Zoo. While living at the zoo, Winnie became very popular .... especially with a young boy named Christopher Robin - the son of A. A. Milne. Milne went on to write a series of stories about Winnie the Pooh, Chrisopher Robin, and all their friiends in the 100-Acre-Wood. (Winnie passed away at the zoo at the ripe old age of 20 in 1934.)
Winnie's Hometown Festival (organized by the White River Historical Society and the community of White River) features a different theme every year. Themes have included "Winnie Looks to the Future," "Winnie Goes to Vegas," and "Winnie's Four Seasons."
The theme for 2004 - which kicked off on this day - was "Winnie Goes Hawaiian."
Click HERE for more August 20 Disney history.