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The town of 'Twilight': visiting Forks, Wash.

November 15, 2008 |  2:13 pm

Twilighttown_1115

Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" saga may be the biggest thing since Harry Potter; this week Meyer has three books on our hardcover bestseller list and two on the paperback bestseller list. Fans are ramping up for the opening of "Twilight" next week. L.A. Times staff writer Susan Carpenter went to Forks, Wash., the setting for the "Twilight" books, and found that the town of 3,100 is pretty Twilight happy.

"How often have you ever taken a vacation to see a grocery store, a high school and a hospital?" asked Janet Hughes, owner of JT's Sweet Stuffs, a brightly lit candy shop that sells Twilight delights: Edward Bites (chocolate-covered peppermint bark) and Bella Creams (mint butter creams). "We've had people from all over the world."

'Welcome race fans and vampires," trumpets the sign for Weston Motors, an auto shop along State Route 101 that is the first Forks business a visitor sees when driving in from Seattle. ...

[The Chamber of Commerce] bought a 1953 Chevy pickup truck, like the one Bella drives in the books. Spray-painted red, with a fake license plate that reads "Bella" affixed to the front bumper, it is parked in front of the Chamber's Twilight-festooned office....

When fans sought authentic Twilight food, Sully's Burgers obliged. The Bellaburger -- a hamburger topped with a ring of pineapple and a slice of Swiss cheese and served with a pair of plastic vampire teeth -- is the bestselling item at the mom-and-pop restaurant. Never mind that this burger does not exist in the books. Nor do the Bellasagna, Bellaberry (raspberry/blueberry) pie and other Twilight foods offered at area restaurants.

When Meyer selected Forks as the setting for "Twilight" (figuring her books' vampires would like a place with a lot of cloud cover; Forks is the rainiest city in the lower 48 states), she had never been to the city. But she's made its high school, police station and hospital destinations for camera-toting fans.

Is this unusual for literary tourism? Robert James Waller, author of "The Bridges of Madison County," grew up in a small Iowa town much like the one in the book; now Madison County has an annual covered bridge festival and hundreds of marriages have taken place at Roseman Bridge. John Berendt had at least traveled to Savannah, Ga., as a reporter before he wrote "MIdnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," turning it into a popular destination with readers. I wonder if any place other than Forks, Wash., became a magnet for literary tourists without the author ever having been there.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times

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