From left, Sandy Taylor, a visitor from Sequim, stands with Lee Hunter and Phil Sifuentes of the Forks Visitors Center. (Zorina Barker/for Peninsula Daily News)

From left, Sandy Taylor, a visitor from Sequim, stands with Lee Hunter and Phil Sifuentes of the Forks Visitors Center. (Zorina Barker/for Peninsula Daily News)

Forks fans often lend helping hands

“It’s like tourism with an additional purpose,” City Attorney Rod Fleck said.

“WHY IS THE city attorney serving tables?” Jack Morrissey asked Rod Fleck, who honestly really is the Forks city attorney/planner.

Fleck shrugged off the comment with a casual small-town-wear-many-hats response.

“You wouldn’t see that in Hollywood,” Morrissey countered.

The Twilight-themed event where Fleck was indeed serving guests at the Rainforest Arts Center was no place to educate this stranger about Forks being nowhere near Hollywood, so Fleck just kept busy.

The pieces to the odd conversation fell into place for Fleck when he found out later that the man he was talking to truly is a Hollywood producer. Almost immediately, Fleck and Morrissey became friends.

However, it wasn’t long before the Forks attorney noticed the Hollywood producer was doing what has become a regular pattern with West End tourists. Morrissey found ways to give back to the community.

According to Fleck, Morrissey sponsored a pizza party during the Forever Twilight festival Sept. 8-11.

More than 180 people turned out for this fundraising event to benefit a couple of members of the Twilight “fandom family” who had fallen on hard times.

“It’s like tourism with an additional purpose,” Fleck said.

He noted the visitors who come for the beach cleanups in the spring and fall and the many people who just roll up their shirtsleeves and jump into any volunteer work that coincides with their vacation time.

“We have a long history of tourists who come here and want to be a part of the community they have an affinity for,” Fleck added.

Lissy Andros, executive director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce, has a theory about why people keep coming back to the area.

“One thing that sticks with me is how people are just blown away by the friendliness of folks here,” she said.

Andros shared a note from a Texas Twilight visitor with me. In part, it read: “I appreciate every teeny thing that is done by the city of Forks, its good residents and their gentle curiosity, tolerance or enthusiasm of our passions.”

Whether visitors were here as kids and want to share the experience with their own kids or they came for Twilight — or whatever it was that brought them out here in the first place — folks keep coming back.

Tonya Woodward is a barista at Forks Outfitters. She said tourism really picked up after school let out for the summer, which she feels is a normal pattern.

She too notices returning faces in the summer season, and, yes, many are here for Twilight.

“The people make working a lot of fun because they are happy and super excited to be here,” Woodward said.

Most every local in the hospitality industry I talked to said the tourist season seemed to be just as busy if not busier than any prior year. But to get some tangible facts, I called Audrey Grafstrom, the clerk and treasurer of Forks.

“We are on track to beat 2015’s figures,” she said.

Grafstrom quoted me annual figures from her spreadsheet of lodging tax. Interested parties use the tax figures from local hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts to non-emotionally gauge the tourism of any given year.

So, according to the city’s figures as of Sept. 30, this year’s lodging tax receipts are already $14,000 ahead of last year’s tally from the same date. For all of 2015, lodging tax was $151,115; 2014 saw $136,614; and 2013 collected $133,255.

_________

Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.

Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorina barker81@gmail.com, or phone her at 360-327-3702. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.

Her next column will be Oct. 18.

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