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Twilight fans flock to Forks

By Daniela Deane, CNN
Actors Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson arrive at the after-party for the premiere of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" in Los Angeles.
Actors Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson arrive at the after-party for the premiere of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" in Los Angeles.
  • Small logging town was suffering a decline before Twilight
  • Forks has welcomed the visitors with open arms
  • Local restaurants serve special Twilight treats
  • Tour operators take fans on Twilight tours

London, England (CNN) -- It's only got a couple of stoplights, and a pretty constant rain.

But that hasn't stopped thousands of visitors from making the trek to Forks, Washington, a small logging town in the Pacific Northwest of the U. S. -- the setting for the hugely popular vampire saga "Twilight."

The small town of just 3,000 residents was suffering from the logging industry's decline. But "Twilight," set in Forks but not actually filmed there, changed all that.

While other nearby areas have seen a decrease in tourism, Forks is enjoying a vampire-inspired tourist boom.

Last year, 2008, was the town's biggest tourism year ever and residents say carloads of visitors, mostly giddy teenage girls, are showing up every weekend these days.

Marcia Bingham, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the town's Twilight-inspired turnaround has been nothing short of miraculous.

"We've probably had more than 100 people a day," Bingham told the Associated Press as van after van of tourists pulled up in front of the town's visitor center.

Forks is where the smouldering romance between vampire Edward Cullen, played by British actor Robert Pattinson, and his high-school girlfriend Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart, unfolds.

The second installment in the massively popular series, "New Moon," also featuring Taylor Lautner as werewolf Jacob Black, opened on November 20 to record audiences.

The movies are based on a series of best-selling books by U.S. author Stephanie Meyer. Five years ago now, Meyer first introduced the world to Swan, a 17-year-old girl who moves to Forks to live with her police chief dad, and her classmate and love interest Cullen, who turns out is a vampire. Swan's best friend at Forks High is Jacob Black, who's a werewolf.

Forks has welcomed the new visitors with open arms.

Local restaurants are serving special "Twilight" treats, like Bella burgers at Sully's Burgers in town, or Bella Berry milkshakes.

Fans buy up bumper stickers or one of the stacks of t-shirts behind every counter that read "Vampires love Forks", or baseball caps emblazoned with the little town's name.

On the town's main drag, signs in store windows read "We love Edward and Bella."

We've probably had more than 100 people a day
--Marcia Bingham, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce

On Bella's fictional birthday last year, the town held a "vampire party", where almost 1,000 young girls attended. Residents said they'd never seen more women in Forks in the history of the rainy little town.

Town entrepreneurs have started "Twilight tours" that take in all the key spots in the books and the movies -- places like Bella and Edward's houses, the police station where Bella's father works, the hospital where Edward's father is a doctor, or the field where the vampires like to play baseball.

Stand-ins for the real things had to be chosen, since the movies aren't filmed in the town.

Tour operators say the most popular spot is probably the beach in nearby LaPush, where Bella first finds out the truth about Edward.

It makes sense the romantic, rain-swept beach would be popular. The stories, after all, are all about a repressed, but hopelessly romantic love between the two lead characters, even though one is a vampire.