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In 'Twilight' town, reality bites

During the '60s, Forks also was the site for an annual Fourth of July rally of the Hell's Angels, whose deafening arrival en masse in this sleepy one-light logging town frightened the women and angered the men.

Eventually, the loggers decided to dis-invite the motley motorists. Bikers verses loggers? It's really no contest. They never returned.

Looking back, the Angels may have been an omen of trouble ahead, a weirdness unlike any Forks had ever seen.

The 1974 "Boldt Decision" protecting Native American fishing rights led to the collapse of commercial and sport fishing in Washington. Then, the '80s recession led to buyouts, downsizing and widespread job loss in the timber industry.

Biting back

How would Forks survive without its two principal industries? One word: Innovation.

Overnight, it seemed, tree trimmers became innkeepers, charter captains became river guides and sawyers became stump sculptors as the west end retooled and reinvented itself as a tourist destination. All it needed was a pop-culture imprimatur to put it on the map.

When I visited in October, "Twilight" had certainly done that. Sully's Drive-In now features a Bella Burger with pineapple. The Chamber of Commerce offers a Twilight Tour to sites mentioned in the books.

"Forks Bites" hats, mugs and tees are sold everywhere. There's even a sign as you leave town: "Fangs for visiting. Be bite back."

It's said that the Chinese symbol for change incorporates the figures for "chaos" and "opportunity." Forks was able to survive by recognizing and seizing the opportunity within its own economic troubles. And it did so without a bailout.

Let's hope America can tap that same spirit as it moves toward the massive restructuring that's dead ahead.

That, and not sleeping with vampires.

Veteran Bankrate contributing editor Jay MacDonald lives in Austin, Texas. If you have a comment or suggestion about this column, write to Bank Shots.


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