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Originally published October 26, 2009 at 12:07 AM | Page modified October 27, 2009 at 12:41 AM

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'Twilight' phenomenon both blessing, curse for Forks

"Twilight" has been a major blessing and slight curse for Forks, a town of 3,000 or so who are partaking of the financial boon that comes with the thousands of tourists the books and movie have brought.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Video | Entering the 'Twilight' Zone

FORKS — For some reason, Randy Lato's "Vampire Voyages" boat trips just haven't brought in the big tourist bucks yet. He hasn't quite worked out a plausible connection between fishing and the fictional "Twilight" series author Stephenie Meyer set in this little Olympic Peninsula town.

Hey, look: "I've only read two books in my entire life," he said. And "Twilight" wasn't one of them. (Although it's his understanding that heroine Bella's dad was a pretty good fisherman.)

So when people ask what fishing has to do with vampires, Lato says, "We're going to float down the damn river looking for vampires climbin' up the trees just like in the movies."

He exemplifies the major blessing and slight curse that "Twilight" has become to this town of 3,000 or so, ambivalent at best toward the source material and the "Twilighters" who've overrun the place in the last year or so, but anxious to partake of the financial boon they bring. The next "Twilight" movie comes out next month.

Most other businesses haven't been shy about it, no matter how tenuous the connection — one restaurant's "Cullen's Clam Chowder" (named after the series' vampire family), a sandwich board trumpeting a pharmacy as "BELLA'S FIRST AID STATION," an espresso stand's "Twilight Brew."

"It's a huge boon. We couldn't get publicity like this ever, paying for it," said Marcia Bingham, at the Forks Chamber of Commerce — which has a red truck like Bella's parked in front.

With the town's logging industry in a slump, being overrun has been a godsend. For instance, the month of July brought nearly as many visitors — 16,000 — as the entire previous year.

Are there any drawbacks to all of it?

"You can't drive through town sometimes easily because there are fans taking photographs all along the way and they slow the traffic down," Bingham said. "It's a pretty minor price to pay."

Annette Root, owner of "Dazzled by Twilight," a large gift shop devoted entirely to the series, said more than 5,000 people from around the world have taken her $39 Twilight bus tour of the area.

"I think a lot of the ambivalence comes from this being a very small, tight community struggling with the leap from a logging community to a tourist location," she said. "But it's been a very welcome gift."

Sergei Holmquist works at one of the local businesses that "Twilight" has brought from the red into the black — the 3 Rivers Resort & Store that sells the Cullen chowder.

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"I do think it's a wonderful thing for our town, but it's definitely changed it, to say the least," he said. "So many people are upset."

Others are simply baffled, such as Andrew Roberts, of Gig Harbor: "I don't really understand why people come up to Forks because of a fictional book," he said.

He read the first two books in the series to try to understand the phenomenon. Did any of it touch him on as deep an emotional level as it has the visitors? Yeah, he said: "The ending, where I realized that I finished the book and got nothing out of it."

"How much do I personally love 'Twilight'?" asked librarian Theresa Tetreau, searching for a diplomatic answer to the question. "I think what I love most about 'Twilight' is that it has introduced so many young people to reading that might not otherwise be picking up a book.

"I think it's a good thing, but there are some days when I think most people would probably tell you that they've they've got a little bit of "Twilight" fatigue, maybe."

What if Forks had been overrun by zombies instead of vampires?

Back at the Chamber of Commerce, Bingham said, "We'd find a way to make that positive, too."

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

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