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African animals populate Greenbank

African animals stare out of the windows of Animal House II, a new business located in downtown Greenbank.   - Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times
African animals stare out of the windows of Animal House II, a new business located in downtown Greenbank.
— image credit: Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times

Whidbey Island now has its own Serengeti in Greenbank, albeit the animals are fiberglass.

A towering giraffe keeps an outlook 20-feet above downtown Greenbank. Stuffed inside the little red building below are numerous other animals, including lions, zebras, gorillas and, incongruously, a Holstein cow.

Outside beneath the giraffe stands a mother and baby elephant, a rhino, miscellaneous other creatures, and hiding in a clump of grass is a huge crocodile.

It’s 6:30 Tuesday morning, but that doesn’t stop busy commuters on Highway 525 from slowing as drivers rub their eyes and stare. Some pull over for a better look. Is this really Greenbank, or did they somehow take a wrong turn in space and end up at the real Serengeti, in Africa?

Despite the early hour, John and Araceley Knox, who live nearby on North Bluff, climb out of their vehicle to ask about the animals.

“I need one in my meadow!” exclaims Araceley. “I’m so happy to see this business come to Greenbank. This is really alive!”

Preparing for the business’ opening is hired hand Ron Drouin, holding a 1-year-old bundle of real fur named Peppy, a poodle/chihuaha mix. Peppy barks at strangers but isn’t bothered by the giant faux animals.

Drouin, a Lynnwood resident, has been bringing parts of the menagerie to the island for the past week, setting the animals up inside and outside the red building that previously housed a real estate office. The “downtown” of Greenbank also includes a building used as a spa and the historic Greenbank Store.

His welcome has been a warm one as passersby honk and wave.

“This will be the center of attraction for Whidbey, so it’s good for the community,” he said. “And the animals put a smile on so many kids’ faces, it’s priceless.” Actually, the animals can cost several hundreds dollars or more, but a price list wasn’t immediately available.

The store owner didn’t return a call Tuesday, but Drouin said the person also owns a similar store in the Everett area. As a result, the Greenbank store is called Animal House II. The fiberglass beasts are made in the Philippines and stored in a warehouse in Kingston. The animals outdoors will be set in concrete and otherwise anchored to discourage theft and other mischief.

Inside the building, two of the rooms will exhibit the animals and another will be set aside as a Whidbey Island art gallery. Artists should call 360-628-0543.

There’s still a lot of work to be done before the opening, with more animals to be placed outside along with plants to give Greenbank a more African look.

“It’s going to look like a jungle,” Drouin said.

He wasn’t kidding.

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