Getting ready for the Rainbows
By CHRIS MERRILL
Star-Tribune environment reporter
Thursday, June 12, 2008
LANDER -- Up to 20,000 people from throughout the United States will
reportedly assemble at Big Sandy in the Wind River Mountains this
summer for the annual "Rainbow Gathering of Living Light."
As local authorities gear up for the event, Cowboy State residents
who witnessed a similar get-together 14 years ago said Wednesday that
based upon that experience, there's little to worry about this summer.
When the Rainbow Family brought its congregation to Wyoming in 1994,
it was something of a shock to the tiny town of Big Piney, as an
estimated group of 14,000 free-spirited campers suddenly showed up,
locals Lynda Leeper and Pam Hamilton said.
But both said, in retrospect, the weeklong counterculture jamboree
turned out better than many area residents had anticipated.
Rainbow Family members have assembled on public lands every year,
somewhere in the United States, since 1972, and the events
occasionally draw up to 25,000 participants.
The assembly is intended to be a celebration of peaceful living and
love for the planet earth. It is also, famously, a so-called
alternative congregation featuring craft trading, dancing, drum
circles, Eastern-style meditation and prayer, and where varying
degrees of nudity and drug use are not uncommon.
"They were a different breed of cat, but they were interesting, and
sure fun to be around," said Pam Hamilton, a rancher who runs summer
cattle in the national forest where the Rainbow Family held its 1994
gathering. "They treated us well. They were pretty darn good to work
with, and the Rainbows pretty much handled everything."
The group had its own "law enforcement" keeping order, Hamilton said,
and when it was all over, the cleanup was impressive.
"They really tried to put the land back to the way it was. And they
did. It went right back to the way is was," she said.
Hamilton was also struck by the way the participants treated one
another, she said.
"The love that they showed for each other was just unreal. They
definitely took care of fellow Rainbow members, and it was just kind
of neat," Hamilton said. "And I thought, at the time, that the world
ought to take a lesson from these people."
Lynda Leeper, a U.S. Forest Service employee who works in the Big
Piney office, remembers the event as a "shock" to the town of a few
hundred residents, simply because thousands of people suddenly
descended on the town.
"Just the sheer numbers of people that came through the grocery
stores, for example," Leeper said. "The shop keepers were trying to
keep the shelves stocked, but they couldn't plan for the number of
people that were going to come through. You'd go into the local
grocery store, and the shelves would be fairly depleted. But the
grocery store made enough money they were able to pave the parking
lot after that."
Leeper said the Rainbow group tried to minimize its impacts on the
environment, but with a group of that size damage is inevitable.
"They do a remarkable job of cleaning up after themselves," she said.
"But there's no way to get around the impact to the resources. We
have a short growing season in southwest Wyoming, and the resources
Various "unofficial" Web sites and blogs associated with the Rainbow
gathering have confirmed local media reports that the Rainbow Family
has chosen Big Sandy for this summer's event, which will take place
July 1 through July 7.
But event locations have changed at the last minute in the past, and
occasionally the gathering will split into two separate ones, said
Mary Cernicek, spokeswoman for the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
There are no official leaders or spokesmen for the Rainbow Family, so
it's very difficult for authorities to pin down the "official" spot
before the event, Cernicek said.
The Bridger-Teton office was flooded with requests for information
Wednesday, but Cernicek said she had little to dispense. Many locals
called asking if the Forest Service can stop the group from holding the event.
"What people keep asking me is, 'Can we prevent it?"' Cernicek said.
"Some people are concerned about vandalism to private property,
things stolen out of pickup trucks..."
If people happen to be victims of crimes, she said, they must work
with local law enforcement.
The Forest Service will have an incident management team assembled
before the event starts to work with the Rainbow gathering
participants, and which will coordinate the agency's response to any
problems that might arise, Cernicek said.
Although the group will not have a permit for the assembly, the
district ranger has been working with the group to develop a plan for
how the site will be restored and what the rules will be regarding
fires and medical emergencies, she said.
"It's a pilot program for this year. We're not issuing a permit.
We'll be working with them under an operating plan -- that was the
decision of the department," Cernicek said.
Jim Whinnery, undersheriff with the Sublette County Sheriff's Office,
said the sheriff will likely start having meetings today with local
agencies in preparation for the gathering, and by next week should
meet with the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and law
enforcement agencies of neighboring counties.
In 1994 the gathering was held on national forest land, and the
sheriff's office assisted the Forest Service in policing the event,
he said. This year the event will likely straddle national forest and
BLM land, and as a result the three agencies will have to coordinate.
"We still need to figure out the logistical arrangements, but I can
assure you we are going to do something," he said.
Cernicek said the Forest Service and the BLM work "rather seamlessly
together," and her agency isn't expecting and problems coordinating
with local and federal law enforcement officers.
Environment reporter Chris Merrill can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at (307) 267-6722.
Rainbows coming to area forest
Posted: Wednesday, Jun 11th, 2008
BY: Jennie Oemig
For the first time since 1994, the Rainbow Family of Living Light
will be returning to Wyoming soil with its annual Rainbow Gathering
planned to take place on Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) land July 1-7.
According to the 2008 gathering Web site, the tribe is an
international loose affiliation of individuals who have a common goal
of trying to achieve peace and love on Earth.
Since planning for this event began, spokespeople for the family have
been in contact with BTNF officials and the location is expected to
be announced very soon.
"They have spoken with our Pinedale District Ranger Tom Peters," said
Mary Cernicek, public affairs spokeswoman for the Bridger-Teton
National Forest of the site selection. "They told us that they have
narrowed it down to four places. Two of them are in the Pinedale
district and two are on the Big Piney district."
The sites Cernicek said are under consideration are Big Sandy and
Irish Canyon in the Pinedale district and in the Big Piney district,
Shell Creek and Snider Basin, which is where the gathering took place in 1994.
"Tom is providing them with information about attributes of the land
and what's good and bad about the places they've selected," she said.
Cernicek said that until the site is selected and the gathering
begins, there is no way to know how many people will be in attendance
for the event.
"Some of the larger gatherings have been upwards of 30,000," she
noted. "When they were here in 1994, I think there were around 14,000."
And the length of time the tribe will be here is also uncertain, Cernicek said.
"After the week of July 4, quite a few of them will disband and
leave, but some of them will remain for two or three weeks after
that," she said.
Regardless of how many people will be attending the event, Cernicek
said an incident management team has been formed and will be
servicing the forest during the gathering. They will mobilize once
the site has been chosen.
Karin Zirk, who created a blog that outlines her views about the
gathering, said she will be in attendance at this year's event.
"I'm going to go to the gathering and build biodegradable composting
shitters, meet a bunch of wonderful people, focalize a few workshops,
meditate for world peace on the 4th [of July], hug hundreds of people
and cry when I leave," she said via e-mail. "My understanding of how
to create world peace will have grown and changed when I'm done."
Zirk, who has been to many gatherings in the past, said she got
involved with the family because she sees the need to improve the
world and leave it better than she found it.
"To me the gathering is the best place in the world for people to
learn the logistics of creating the world the way you want it to be,"
she said. "I am physically pained to be away from the gathering
during the silent meditation for world peace and I try to be there
whenever I can."
Though the exact site has not been selected, Zirk said Spring
Council, which began June 10 at Stokes Crossing Campground near
Boulder Lake, is usually the time when that takes place.
"In years past it has taken from one day to over a week for people at
Spring Council to complete the process …," she said. "Once Spring
Council ends it's because a site has been selected by people on the
ground. People on the ground move to the site, distribute the site
information freely and then seed camp starts."
Having attended councils in the past, Zirk said it is also a time
when scouts share information with people about their surroundings.
"Spring Council is when people who have been scouting present all the
information on the potential gathering sites," she said, explaining
that this could include information on parking, springs,
archeological concerns, rare and/or endangered species, the hike in,
issues with the United States Forest Service, ingress and egress issues.
The gathering has been held in Wyoming three times since 1973, when
the tribe came together in the Shoshone National Forest. The most
recent gathering in the state occurred in the Bridger-Teton National
Forest in 1994.
"It's great to be back in Wyoming where the people are kind and the
air is clean," Zirk said.
For more information about the Rainbow Gathering or the Family of
Living Light, visit http://welcomehere.org/2008/.
Rainbows to return to Sublette County
Posted: Wednesday, Jun 11th, 2008
BY: Janet Montgomery
The rumor is out that the 2008 gathering of the Rainbow Family of
Living Light plans to meet on US Forest Service (USFS) Land in the
area of Pinedale and it's true.
At Tuesday's regular meeting of the Sublette County Commissioners,
USFS Pinedale District Ranger Tom Peters advised the commission that
the Rainbows had been in contact but would not confirm a location.
Peters said possible sites included Big Sandy and Irish Canyon.
But right now, Peters said the location is unknown and the Rainbows
were "playing games with the Forest Service (FS)."
Although he assured that at some point and in some way, the FS will
find out about the gathering but probably at the last minute.
Peters said the FS wants to work with the county health department as
the gathering date approaches.
"I just want you ... to know that the Forest Service wants to do
everything they can for the county," he said, adding that the FS
wants to give the county as much information and help as possible.
"We don't have much right now."
Commissioner John Linn suggested the FS get with Pinedale Online to
create a one-page Web site on the gathering as well as to put the
three commissioners on an "email alert" for when the site is actually
known and for other issues that might arise.
With estimates of anywhere from 15,000 to 40,000 people to converge
on the area for the gathering, Peters said there have been a number
of rumors about the Rainbows, one being that the Hells Angels would
be providing security for the gathering.
"The FS is not going to be reacting to all the rumors," he said.
Peters said there is a possibility that up to 100 FS law enforcement
officers would be transported to the area to help.
Linn also requested a briefing meeting with FS, EMS, Search and
Rescue and others for a quick overview as the time of the gathering approaches.
Linn indicated his concern over the roads to some of the indicated
possible locations that could mean severely rutted roads as well as
dust issues, saying that once the location is known hopefully the
county will have a chance to mag the road if possible.
Peters welcomed the suggestions, saying he had never dealt with this
kind of activity before, but in Sublette County many locals were
present for the 1994 gathering in Snyder Basin.
Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford said, "There's a few of us who
have been her before."
She also indicated to Peters that the FS has a team of agents
assigned to the gathering.
In 1994, the gathering at Snyder Basin drew a reported 14,000
rainbows to the area 30 miles southwest of Big Piney.
This year's gathering is set for July 1-7 with the "Spring Circle"
commencing on June 10 at Stokes, Wyo., a location just a few miles
from Boulder Lake. A Web site for the rainbows directs fellow
gatherers to use the Salt Lake City Airport and to check back for the
location on July 1.
The site also indicates that once the Spring Counsel makes a
decision, Seed Camp begins working to create the infrastructure to
support the gathering, which would be finishing by the end of June.
The site also warns that the gathering location could mean driving 50
to 100 miles at 20 miles per hour.
The Rainbow Family has been conducting the weeklong gathering campout
on FS lands since 1972 with thousands of people typically attending
the event. The Rainbow Family gathered in the Shoshone National
Forest in 1973 with the 1994 gathering in the Bridger-Teton National
Forest where the 2008 gathering will mostly likely be held as well.
Rainbows pick Big Sandy
At circle ceremony, free spirits select July site.
By Rachael Shaver and Cory Hatch, Jackon Hole, Wyo.
June 11, 2008
BOULDER – A loose band of disheveled people huddles under tarps and
tents drinking coffee, stirring campfires, shielding cigarettes from
the wind and preparing to organize. Sort of.
Roughly 75 "brothers" and "sisters" ages 5 to 80 are gathered here at
the Rainbow Family's Spring Circle to pick the site of the annual
July gathering, the Rainbow Gathering of Living Light, which could
draw thousands. They have no leaders, no real structure and only the
vague outlines of a plan.
As the hours progress, rain turns to hail and someone says, "It's a
beautiful day, I'm going home." A slender young man in baggy jeans
and a hoody strolls by singing.
All in its own time, here.
Finally, Brother Barry Adams Plunker emerges from a green minivan and
shouts "circle!" The clan responds "circle."
"Raise the sails, drop the anchors," someone says. Excited people
emerge from shelters, gather by the side of Boulder Creek, join hands
and bow in a few minutes of prayer. Plunker asks them to pray for
better weather, and a soft "ohmmm" sounds.
Long-awaited scouts appear on the horizon and the group begins to
cheer. The scouts have spent the day looking at two sites – Snyder
Basin, where a gathering was held in 1994, and Big Sandy, both on the
Bridger-Teton National Forest.
The scouts report and the gathering erupts into passionate arguing.
Sarah Stone doesn't want to return to Snyder. "In my heart, it's not
right to go to Snyder and use that land again," she says.
After 45 minutes, Plunker calls for a vote.
"Is there any consensus for Snyder?" he asks. "There will be silence
A dozen voices shout "block!"
"Is there any consensus for Big Sandy?" he asks.
Smiles spread across faces in the group. People grasp hands and let
loose with another collective "ohmmm." Then the cheering begins. Now
it's time to start their journey "home."
Thus begins this year's Rainbow gathering, an event that in years
past has drawn up to 20,000. People from around the world will gather
about 90 air miles southeast of Jackson for a festival with traders,
drum circles, dancing and prayers for peace. It's completely noncommercial.
Cooking is done in group kitchens with food brought in by
participants. Everybody has a job and pitches in. Some are on toilet
patrol. At Spring Circle, one youth was tasked with rolling cigarettes.
The event runs from July 1 through 7 and reaches its peak on the
fourth, when the group observes a silent prayer from morning until noon.
Unlike past years, Undersecretary of Agriculture, Mark Rey sanctioned
this year's gathering as a unique recreational event rather than an
illegal activity. As such, U.S. Forest Service officials say they're
Resource specialists will assess the site to determine what, if any
environmental damage could occur. Then, an "incident command team," a
group of people trained to, among other things, coordinate forest
fires, will take charge of the logistics.
By Tuesday afternoon, Tom Peters, the Bridger-Teton's ranger for the
Pinedale District, said he hadn't yet received word from Rainbow
Family members on this year's choice of Big Sandy.
The spot in the southern part of the Wind River Range is a relatively
low-elevation area adjacent to Bureau of Land Management land. Peters
said the decision to allow the Rainbow Family Gathering at Big Sandy
lies with more senior Forest Service officials.
Not that the family is seeking a permit.
Peters' job is to coordinate with the incident command team and the
Rainbow Family. "We need to start working through the logistics and
tactics of this to decide what sort of resources we're going to be
need," he says.
"They've been courteous," he continued. "They purport not to have any
leadership structure." "What it amounts to is that we are talking to
individuals. It's probably going to require a different sort of
thinking on our part than what we typically would use."
Big Sandy is just east of Boulder at the doorstep to the Bridger
Wilderness. It is climbers' closest trailhead to the majestic Cirque
of the Towers. In the past, towns near gatherings have reported an
extra $1 million in revenue from the event. Peters says, as with
other proposed sites, Big Sandy has its issues.
"It has some sensitive soils – the sandy soils," Peters says. "It's
not a hardened area."
There's also livestock grazing nearby, which could mean a shortage of
potable water; it's the second busiest entrance to the wilderness;
there's a lodge nearby; it's home to a campground; and the area also
holds a population of Colorado cutthroat trout, a fish some people
think belongs on the Endangered Species List.
"We are going to work with them to develop an operating plan that
will speak to sanitation and to mitigation after the event is over,"
A man who calls himself "Useless," said that from the start of Spring
Circle to the end of cleanup usually takes about six months. The
Rainbow Family has a pretty good record on cleaning up its sites,
according to articles from the Salt Lake Tribune, the Idaho Statesman
After the circle Tuesday, one observer described participants'
attention to cleaning up the Boulder Lake site as "obsessive."
When the gathering came to Snyder Basin, things went smoothly for
such a large group. A campfire got out of control, starting a small
forest fire. Hundreds of Rainbow Family members started a bucket
brigade to help put it out.
One man started fights in the camp but was caught by Rainbow members
and turned over to police. The late Dave Cameron, Jackson police
chief at the time, said there was little in the way of crime and told
reporters at the Jackson Hole News that the event could have been worse.
The Rainbow Family discourages weapons, drugs and alcohol, and
encourages Rainbows to travel using legal transportation. Soliciting
a ride is illegal in Wyoming.
Plunker said picking Big Sandy was as much an exercise in intuition
"Oftentimes there are many elements that take place when finding a
gathering place," he said. "Some are physical properties like water
and space, but there is also a vision element, something that is
felt. There is a spirit vibe."
This year's nod of approval from authority figures like Rey bodes
well, Plunker said.
"So far the State of Wyoming, the BLM and the sheriffs have treated
us good,"he said. "They've been peace officers and shown us respect.
What's going to happen when the incident command team comes?" he
asked. "Who knows. It might be a different story.
"No one interrupts George Bush when he gathers to a place of
spirituality," Plunker continued. "Respect to Cheney.
"We would love to have you show up at our gathering," he said,
inviting the vice president. "But, please don't bring your gun."