It started with a giant stuffed toy snake sprawled across a tree branch to slow traffic on a quiet street.
Seven years later, the maple tree in the front yard of Eric Bilow and his wife Wanda Wilson’s home is decorated with more than 20 adorable stuffed animals in all sorts of vibrant colours.
“There’s a lot of locals who have given me toys,” says Bilow, pointing to a yellow duck that was donated by a woman in town. “And somebody just dropped that blue bird just the other day.”
One of the nicest stuffed toys, he says, was a four-foot abominable snowman that was delivered brand new in the packaging. The generous donor remains a mystery to this day.
“We have so many of the smaller ones that we use them for Christmas decorations in the yard. We make ice skating rinks and put everybody in it.”
Bilow says the tree is successful in slowing some of the traffic but it has also become a tourist attraction in Okanagan Falls.
Visitors from all over the world have heard about the sight on Cedar Street and drop by to take pictures.
“How many trees do you see like this?” he asked. “I think it’s popular because of the yard and A-frame of the house. It’s just kind of cozy and the tree just goes with. We enjoy it.”
The toys are switched up whenever they become weathered and begin to fade. But there is one — a frog in a tiny outhouse that sings, What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong — that has lasted all seven years. It has sentimental value to Bilow.
When he lived in Alberta, Bilow says he worked for the government in the forestry department. He ran a fire tower and there was no plumbing at the time. He built the toy in memory of what he described as his special time there.
“We had an outhouse and the outhouse faced a big buffalo pasture. In the morning, I’d leave the door open and all the buffalo would come and look at me. That was a really good experience and I enjoyed that. So that’s me up in the outhouse singing, What a Wonderful World.”
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Reporter, Penticton Western News
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