Tues, Sept. 18: After a full day of exploring and hiking the beauty of the Pacific Northwest (including Lake Crescent, Marymere Falls, Hoh Rainforest, Sol Duc Falls, and First Beach at La Push — possibly a later post on this), I made my way to Forks, WA, where I would be spending the night.
Now, Forks, WA was once primarily a logging town. Until 2005, that is. In 2005, the first book of the Twilight series — which author Stephenie Meyer had decided to set in her hometown of Forks — made its appearance in bookstores, and a small town was forever changed. The following is an account of my brief brush with . . . the Twilight Zone:
“You want the non-Twilight-themed room, right?”
When I got this question over the phone, I knew this would be an interesting stay. I apparently got into town two days after the annual Twilight convention — Stephenie Meyer Day a.k.a. Bella’s Birthday, from Sept. 14-16, 2012 — wrapped up. A few banners celebrating the day still adorned the town when I drove in, but they were gone by the following morning (so no pictures, unfortunately).
The Twilight themed specials didn’t stop with hotels (every single lodging seemed to have a sign with something like “Edward Cullen would stay here!”). Every single store and restaurant in the town was trying to cash in (even the few shops that appeared to stubbornly resist Twilight decor — I ate at a coffee shop this morning that went with a Forks’ logging history theme — had small “Welcome, Twilight fans!” signs). One firewood store marketed its firewood as “Jacob Black’s Firewood.” I wondered whether any teenage girl would be persuaded by the sign to buy a log. But then again, the phenomenon wasn’t just limited to teenage girls — I saw a middle-aged man sign a Twilight guestbook at Three Rivers Restaurant, which I stopped at for dinner. I confess that I stopped at that restaurant — midway between the La Push beaches I was visiting and Forks, WA — purely because of its Twilight decor. “Treaty Line,” a conspicuous sign outside read, “No vampires beyond this point.” (I would learn later — from the motel receptionist, an older man who looked to be about 65 — that La Push was werewolf territory). I got the werewolf burger, which was pretty delicious. The restaurant had a Twilight seating section in the back and a Twilight menu. Outside, they had converted a “Fire Threat Level” sign (present everywhere on the Olympic Peninsula) to a “Vampire Threat Level” one. After dinner, I made my way back to vampire territory and checked into my Forks motel.
As I had a few hours to kill before catching a bus back to Seattle, I spent the following morning exploring the town, taking photos, and chatting with a few of its inhabitants. Eventually, I came across Leppell’s Twilight Central, “The best selection of Twilight merchandise in town!” I went in.
I was the only person in the shop at the time, and there were two employees working the counter — one woman who looked to be in her 30s and an older man who looked to be in his early 70s. I struck up a conversation with them.
“What did this store used to be? Before Twilight?” I inquired. The woman led me upstairs, where she flipped on the light switch, revealing an assortment of home decoration items and various trinkets. “Leppell’s Flowers and Gifts. This is what the lower floor used to look like…and this is where our customers go when they want to escape the Twilight Zone,” she smiled.
“Have you read the series and seen the movies yourself?” She had. But she was quick to add that her favorite books were Kafka’s The Trial and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The Twilight series wasn’t quite her cup of tea, she said, but she thought the phenomenon was fun.
“How many people tend to visit the store when it’s not Stephenie Meyer weekend?” I asked, glancing around at the empty store. I was shocked by her answer: “oh, we average about 100 a day, except for the winter season.” The older man chimed in, “we had 75,000 people sign our guestbook last year alone, from all over the world.” Whoa. The woman mentioned that she had 200 people in the back room this past weekend for Edward and Bella’s wedding reception — just one of the many events that take place on Stephenie Meyer day. “Before 2005, the owner had one part-time employee helping her out. Since 2005, she’s hired three permanent employees.”
A lot of the merchandise in the store is made by local artists, the woman mentioned, and the store owned most of the trademarks and designs that were sold. The official marketing company supplied a few items, but most of them were unique to the store. I have to admit that the items I saw on the lower Twilight level were, on a whole, much more creative and unique than the items upstairs that they used to sell.
“Are you tired of this at all?” “Not at all!” the older man responded. “I love talking to all these people. I’ve met people of so many different nationalities and from all over the world. How else could you have that chance when you live in a small town?” he asked. He added that Twilight was exposing a lot of people to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. “Many of these people — they don’t know about the beautiful forests here, so they’ll come for Twilight and then keep coming back to visit the forests.”
And though Stephenie Meyer day is over, the store employees won’t be getting much of a rest; they’re already preparing for the release of Breaking Dawn Part 2 in a few months. “Most of the fans, as they left, were already saying ‘see you in November!'” she laughed.