This is Front Page, our new segment featuring conversations with journalists taking a closer look at the people, issues and events shaping lives across the Pacific Northwest. Today we’re way out west, western Washington that is, where the twilight is unusual. The town of Forks. Here’s our news director John Paxson.
Paxson: The Forks Forum is the only hometown newspaper serving Washington’s West End. It publishes every Thursday. The boss is editor/publisher Chris Cook. Chris, what’s making news in the Forks Forum?
Cook: Well, this past week we had the annual Stephenie Meyer Day/Bella’s Birthday festival with about 700 to 1,000 Twilight fans coming from across the state, country and world to experience their own fantasy about Forks and Twilight.
Paxson: So vampires are still quite a current theme in Forks?
Cook: Yes. The last movie’s coming out in November so there’s still hardcore fans. There was a big craze 2009, 2010, we were just smashed. For instance, the visitor count went from about 6,000 a year in 2003 to 70-some thousand in 2010, so it’s a… especially for the retail business here in town, the motels and so forth, it’s been really a boon for the economy. It’s easy to spot ‘em in town too because out here we’re sort of a frontier logging town.
Paxson: As they’re looking around, looking for folks with fangs, I assume they’re overlooking some of the real headlines that are happening out there. What is the news beyond Twilight?
Cook: One of the things is the issue of expanding the Olympic National Park, an issue called the Wild Olympics. There’s a lot of debate about that. The timber economy was sort of devastated here by the northern spotted owl controversy, or legislation in the 1990s and the economy has been depressed ever since because of that, so there are all these fears about taking more federal lands out of logging. That issue is somewhat tied into the election that’s happening right now. Representative Norm Dicks is retiring and the Republican candidate is opposed to the Wild Olympics and the Democrat candidate’s supporting it, so that’s a big issue here.
The logging industry is seeing somewhat of a boom from exporting logs to China. And unfortunately I believe the Chinese economy is slowing down a little bit but daily you’ll see logging trucks going by with logs that are sent to Port Angeles, usually, and placed in container ships and sent over to China.
One thing that Forks is famous for is pulling together. We’re sort of like an island out here in the woods. We have an annual scholarship auction to raise money to help kids graduating from high school not just to go to college but to buy tools if they want to be loggers, to go to vocational school. This year I’d say they raised $60,000 which is amazing for a town of 3100 people. Twilight’s sort of the icing on the cake. It’s provided employment, especially for the retail sector here. It’s really boosted that.
The other thing too, we also work really closely with the Quillayute Tribe. They’re also featured in Stephenie Meyer’s books. They’re about 20 miles away from Forks, and the fans go there to La Push to the beach where the Quillayute Nation is and also at the same time take in Forks. So that’s sort of tied our two communities together too which has been a good thing.
Paxson: We’ve been speaking with Chris Cook. He’s the editor/publisher of the Forks Forum, Forks Washington.
Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio