STEAMBOAT SPRINGS - A temporary city made up of tens of thousands of residents who go by one-word names like Stone and Star will be erected next month in the Routt National Forest, north of Eagle County.The Rainbow Family of Living Light has decided to hold its Rainbow Gathering July 1 through 7 somewhere in the forest in Northwest Colorado, most likely in Routt County. An advance group of 150 to 200 people are at the Hinman campground in North Routt County this weekend to determine the best site for what can best be described as the largest gathering of hippies in North America.The Rainbow Family has been holding these gatherings on National Forest Service land since 1972 to promote world peace. The only requirement to be a part of the family - which claims to be the world's largest non-organization of non-members - is to have a belly button. Among the clans that attend the annual gathering are the Magic Bowl Kitchen, the Graceland Tea Mansion, the Zipolites and the Hare Krishnas."You will see a very functional city of 60,000 people existing in harmony and peace and showing an alternative to society," said Bodhi, one of the advance team members camping at Hinman this weekend.Bodhi said the group is considering four or five sites within a 50-mile radius of the campground."We need a fresh water source, one main meadow that is 100 acres or larger and about five to 10 square miles of hippie land," Bodhi said. "And we will need another large meadow to accommodate thousands of vehicles." Gathering's impactThe public gathering during a major tourist week for both the National Forest and the resort community of Steamboat Springs has grabbed the attention of area law enforcement and public health officials.Mike Zopf, the director of the Routt County Department of Environmental Health, said the gathering is unlike anything the county has ever seen. Zopf attended a presentation on a previous Rainbow Gathering held in 1992 near Paonia in Delta County. Zopf anticipates 20,000 people - not the 60,000 predicted by Bodhi - will attend this year's gathering. "That's about the permanent population of Routt County," Zopf said. "It's not like anything we have ever hosted."Sheriff John Warner has met with group members at the Hinman campground."There have been basically no problems up to now because we've established a good communication system," Warner said.According to a report issued following the 1992 gathering in Colorado, there were two deaths - a married couple died of an overdose of muscle relaxers - three births, five reports of sexual assault, 310 citations issued and 43 arrests on charges ranging from child abuse to wildlife violations.The Rainbow Family uses a method of self-policing at the gatherings. One such method is for a member to yell the word "shantacani" when someone is in need of help or conflict arises. At that time, those in the vicinity of the incident will link hands around the conflict until it is diffused.Any large gathering of people needs food and other goods. Bodhi suggests that stores stock up on sleeping bags, tarps, tobacco and candy bars. Once at the gathering, participants rely on the barter system."The only things you need to bring are shiny rocks for trading and a cup, bowl and spoon," he said.Prayer for peaceBodhi said he attends the Rainbow Gathering every year for the spirituality."I can go to all of these different camps and experience great spiritual benefits," Bodhi said. "There's a reason why everyone is here - to find their source of spiritual growth."Most of the ceremonies and rituals practiced by the family are based on Native American culture. For example, during the spring council, members sit in a circle and pass a feather, which signifies the holder's permission to voice his or her opinion on the site selection.The main ceremony of the gathering, the prayer for peace, takes place on July 4. After a morning of silence, participants will go to the meadow at noon to hold hands in a large circle, Bodhi said."You can hardly see the person in front of you," he said. ?Then we start to 'ohm.' It's a very powerful experience."After about 40 minutes, a children's parade comes through to break the circle and everyone celebrates."I enjoy the prayer for peace because of the amazing amount of tranquility you get inside," said Ceraphin, another member of the Rainbow Family. "We all come here for peace and to save ourselves and the Earth."Despite the numerous concerns regarding any large gathering, Kent Foster, the acting district ranger for the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears district of the Routt National Forest, said he isn't worried."It's going to be an interesting event that we will talk about for a long time," Foster said.
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