Editorial: Roadside attraction

Whidbey Island’s latest, and perhaps best, genuine roadside attraction has popped up in Greenbank.

Certainly, the highway up the island has its share of pretty views and points of interest. But ever since the chainsaw carvers moved out of Clinton along with their wooden bears and eagles, and the metal killer whales and giant dragonflies disappeared south of Oak Harbor, there has been nothing to make the kids scream “Dad! Stop the car,” and that would actually make Dad slam on the brakes, turn around and let everyone hop out to examine the attraction up-close and personal.

The very definition of “roadside attraction” is kitschy, requiring a certain amount garishness and poor taste. Animal House II meets that definition nicely. A huge giraffe now stands only a few feet away from heavily-traveled Highway 525, surrounded by an equally out-of-place assortment of elephants, rhinos and crocodiles. Jungle-like plants are being imported and the building next to the 20-foot tall giraffe houses an assortments of lions, tigers, zebras, monkeys and gorillas.

People are already stopping and staring, and some islanders are contemplating exactly how a fiberglass giraffe or lion might look in the back 40, or at the entrance to the family mansion. The island has a lot of off-beat people who will find these beasts attractive and some have the hundreds of dollars it will take to purchase one. Waterfront property owners might think about placing the crocodile in saltwater, to scare fishermen away.

What some will find appealing is that this roadside attraction is a flashback to the ‘50s and ‘60s, when American’s new highways were dotted with giant dinosaurs, mammals and monsters, all aimed at making travelers stop and part with a few bucks.

Another appealing aspect of Animal House II is that it probably doesn’t meet the criteria of Whidbey Island’s official “Scenic Byway” designation. Nobody apparently asked state and county bureaucrats if this business would meet their definition of “scenic” or “historic.”

Imagine a purple house on Ebey’s Prairie surrounded by elephants, rhinos and giraffes. If you find this image appalling, you probably had the kind of dad who would never pull over for the roadside attraction.

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