Rainbow Gathering includes eclectic souls
BIG RED PARK – In case you’re wondering, here at the 35th Annual National Rainbow Gathering in the Routt/Medicine Bow National Forest, the Rainbow Family of Living Light keeps its members well-fed, safe and conscious of how they approach the thousands of acres of U.S. National Forest they are temporarily inhabiting.The members – anyone not a cop or a Forest Service official – spent the last week setting up a spur-of-the-moment community, complete with group kitchens and a main circle where many gather each night at 6 p.m. to share meals, and discourse about … well, being well-fed, safe and conscious. The dishwashing areas, compost heaps and toilets are works in progress that involve a little science, muscle and some shovels.Everyone holds hands and chants “Om” in a collective wish for peace before the food gets delivered by the kitchens.
There are a county’s worth of people out here in the woods, hiking, on average, from 2 to 6 miles between the designated parking areas and their chosen campsites. It’s safe to say that there’s at least 10,000 people here – if not 15,000 or 20,000.There is also quite a large authority presence, including local Forest Service employees, people from local sheriff’s departments and members of the national response team that the Forest Service founded in 1998 to be on staff to regulate Rainbow Gatherings.Rainbow Family members span the spectrum from musicians, artists, gypsies and naturalists to religious fanatics, local-business owners, doctors, lawyers, your average normal-looking, two-child, two-parent American family … and there are tons of hippies.The Rainbow Family attempts to define its presence on a Web site, http://www.welcomehome.org, in many ways, including:• The largest non-organization of non-members in the world, with no leaders or organization.• A group into intentional community building, nonviolence, and alternative lifestyles. • A group that believes peace and love are a great thing, and there isn’t enough of that in this world.Despite the peace and love talk, it hasn’t been without conflicts. About 250 citations have been issued to Rainbow Family members since officers began citing the members for not having a special-use permit, according to the Associated Press, which also reported that officers used pepper spray and clubs Monday to clear a large group of Rainbow Family members who surrounded them.The U.S. Forest Service demands that the Rainbow Family sign a permit because more than 74 people are in the forest, and the family says they have no leaders, so there is no one who can take full responsibility for the actions of the entire group by having a few sign a petition for so many.Dozens of officers and agents patrol the grounds throughout the event, which is scheduled to last through Friday, though some of the campers will be sticking around for much longer to clean up the site and repair the trampled land and any affected waterways.
Stone is one of the “kids” – “kids” is a term describing a large portion of the younger, more transient population who have adopted names given to them during their less-than casual initiation into the Rainbow Family. He’s the lucky recipient of a brand-new, secondhand acoustic Fender guitar and he’s one of the most dust-laden kids at the festival.His gravely singing and steadfast strumming were a welcome break from Trade Circle’s hustle and spectacle. He was singing a song about revolution with a group of contemporaries on the outskirts of the barter-oriented market (people are encouraged not to use money during their transactions). He agreed to play for a nearby video camera, but “not with all the kids around because some of them don’t like to be video-taped.”Stone has been on the scene at the gathering for years, and he played witness to some of the early clashes between the authorities and the Family. And one of the songs he played for me was written about the relationship the Family has with U.S. law enforcement.”Well you sat me down the other nightYou picked me up by my hair and said ‘Man, I’m lookin’ for a fight!’Then you threw me on the carYou shoved the cuffs onto my wristsAnd you shoved me into the carYeah, I was pissedBecause you’re cops, you’re cops, you’re copsThis insanity has got to stopFive family members in jail in a weekAnd you don’t know the words to speak
They’re cops, they’re cops, they’re copsThey arrest us and use our dreadies for mopsJust because you have a badge doesn’t mean you have a nameGive me a number, hell I’ll do the sameWell you take the can full of mace and you spray it in my faceI look at you and I say with disgrace’You know I still love you,You’re a brother too.'”Stone, apparently, has seen it all before, and sees it as intolerance in the land of tolerance. This vibe emanates from the Krishnas, the Christian Vegetarian Association, the Buddhists and the New Jerusalem believers to the parents, the young adults and the children who play on the swings and teeter-totters that the early campers set up in Kiddie Village.Vail, Colorado
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