United States Department of Agriculture
Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests
Rochester Ranger District
RD 1, Box 108
Rochester, VT 05767

Reply: 2330

Date: June 9, 1991

Senator Elizabeth Ready
RD 1, Box 2018
Bristol, VT 05443

Dear Senator Ready:

The National Rainbow Family is planning to hold its 20th National Gathering on the Rochester Ranger District in the Green Mountain National Forest. Typically, these gatherings have been held on National Forests throughout the country. The purpose of this letter is to give you some insight into the Rainbow Family and their gatherings as we know them.

First of all, we learned of the Rainbow's plan considering New England and to perhaps meet in Vermont, late last year. We had our first contact with the Rainbows concerning a Gathering site in January of 1991. Several meetings and discussions followed, with major focus on sites on the Rochester and Manchester Ranger Districts. We discouraged the Rainbow Family from selecting a site on the Green Mountain National Forest due to the impacts that would result to our National Forest programs, to the resources and users, to the State and to the local communities that might be affected by the Gathering. We did not receive a final decision as to the Gathering site until last week, therefore you are only being notified of the Gathering now.

As a result of past Gatherings, the Forest Service challenged the Rainbow Family from gathering on National Forests in 1988. A federal court ruling upheld the Rainbow Family, and as a result of that court ruling, the Forest Service is obligated to cooperate with the Rainbow Family to work out the logistics for this Gathering. A refusal by the Forest Service would violate their constitutional right of free speech and the right to gather. We are therefore, left with the task of accommodating the Rainbow Family.

Now let me try to explain who the Rainbows are and provide some background on their philosophy. The formal name is the "Rainbow Family of Living Light", and as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Rainbows have been meeting "regionally, bio-regionally and worldwide for over 20 years as a way of celebrating their spiritual connections to the Earth and for the future promotion of World peace by the recognition that they are, in fact, all Family". These Gatherings are open to all, free of charge, and the Rainbows are supportive of diversity in lifestyles and opinions. Decisions are made consensus style (via Councils) and everyone has equal input. The Family, which includes anyone and everyone (according to the Rainbows), will "celebrate in the cathedrals of Nature during the week of the 4th of July communing with nature, socializing, entertaining, practicing simple life styles/survival education and other things"


Rainbow Family gatherings bring with them many concerns. Those attending will come from all walks of life. Some will be professionals, others will be dropouts and some will simply be curiosity seekers. Their dress and activities are reminiscent of the flower children and hippies of the Sixties. Their Gatherings bring large crowds, nudity, come drug use and heavy traffic to remote and rural areas. They will exhibit values that are different than those found in the areas where they gather.

Forest Service experience with past Rainbow Gatherings indicates that potential problems can be avoided by adopting a flexible and appropriate management approach: one of accommodation and cooperation, rather than micro-control and confrontation. Gatherings that have been managed with a "light hand" have not created major problems. More problems have occurred at Gatherings where a heavy-handed approach was used.

A major objective of the Forest Service will be to provide for the health, safety and welfare of all; those attending the Gathering, other National Forest users and area residents. We also wish to minimize the impact of the Gathering on law enforcement agencies and local units of government. We have already contacted all of the law enforcement groups that might be involved or affected, and will be bringing in an Incident Command Team of experts to handle the logistics and coordination of this Gathering.

The 1991 Gathering will occur from June 29 through July 7. The Incident Command (IC) Team headed by Warren DuBois will work towards meeting the objectives of the Forest Service, local communities, and law enforcement and other agencies to exercise a spirit of cooperation with the Rainbow Family. We plan to cooperate with these agencies and Local Town officials to the fullest extent possible and to assist them with their needs and concerns. We will also enforce National Forest, as well as local and State, rules and regulations around the perimeter of the Gathering site and maintain constant presence within the area.

Another of our concerns is the potential environmental effect the Gathering will have on the Rob Ford meadows and other satellite sites. In general, past Gatherings have been managed in a manner that has minimized environmental impacts. Trash and garbage are collected and disposed, toilet facilities are treated with lime and covered, and areas that have been compacted or denuded are rehabilitated. There is also the opportunity to utilize the Rainbow volunteers for trail 6 wildlife projects near the Gathering site. Traffic and parking problems are also concerns we are currently working cooperatively with the Rainbows to resolve in a matter that will provide for public safety.

Though there have been exceptions to these positive generalities, these exceptions can be related to the manner in which the Gathering was managed. we believe that through our cooperative effort with other agencies, Towns and the Rainbow Family, we can minimize the impacts from this Gathering to the resources, local communities and businesses.


I am enclosing information related to this year's National Rainbow Family Gathering. Together with this Letter, I hope you will have a better understanding and a fair perspective on this Gathering.

If you have any additional questions about our role, the Gathering, logistics, please give me a call at this Office at (802) 767-4261. As we get more information, we will provide you with additional updates.


District Ranger






The Rainbow Family has selected The Rochester Ranger District in the Green Mountain National Forest as the site of its 1991 National Rainbow Family Gathering. This Gathering will be the first National Gathering to be held in the Northeast. The following thoughts have been distilled from the experience of people who have been associated with the management of prior Gatherings.


The core members of the Rainbow Family are older remnants of the "hippie or flower children" movement of the 1960s. However, there are also those who are younger who have adopted this lifestyle. These people will be the first to arrive on the Gathering site and the last to leave. They have names like Taco Mike, Water, Interstate Mike, Owl, Roadrunner, Love 22, Badjur and Medicine Story. Those who will attend the Gathering will represent people of ALL walks of life. The "hippies" will be joined by family groups, professional people, modern-day drop-outs, locals, as well as young and old people. They will come from places as far away as Alaska and California for a variety of reasons, and will bring a wide variety of different and unique personal values.


There is no easily defined leadership group or formal organization in the Rainbow Family. Members will tell you that none exists, that decisions are made by consensus, that all have an equal say in decision-making and that power is equally shared. As the Gathering develops, it becomes apparent, however, that same shares of work, responsibility and power are more equal than others. The first arrivals, those who select the Gathering site, are among those with a more equal share of power. They will demand and negotiate to achieve the conditions they desire for the Gathering. Another power group will be the Shanta Seena. They are the group charged with peace keeping at Gatherings, the law and order group, if you will, and they seem to do an effective job, up to a point.


Some Family members will wander about the Gathering site in the nude and will openly use marijuana (the Rainbows profess to not use other drugs, but other drugs have been known to be readily available). Some will have different family and religious values, and some will seem to take delight in shocking Gathering visitors. The conflict of values that exists will make it difficult for some of us to work effectively with the Family.



Although they do nothing substantive other than gather, Rainbow Family Gatherings are media events that are covered by newspapers with the stature of the Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. They will also receive significant local newspaper and television coverage, and perhaps even warrant a TV network spot. Some feel that a concerted effort should be made to have a Gathering reported from the viewpoint of the Forest Service. The Rainbows, in contrast, would like to have events reported so that they are shown in a positive light. Either approach would probably be viewed by the media as attempts to manage the news, something that they wish to avoid. Our approach will be to set up a public information center, provide assistance when requested and offer to accompany reporters on their visits to the site. This approach would, in all probability, yield well-balanced coverage. Media news releases will be kept to a minimum until a week or two before the "peak period" of the 4th of July so that the Gathering does not draw additional participants, who may further complicate the control of this Gathering.


A Rainbow Family Gathering does impact the area within which it occurs, and perhaps adjacent areas as well. Local and state governments will expend money to cover law enforcement, traffic management and health inspections. Although the Rainbows say they take care of their own needs and emergencies, there is no question that the potential exists for local health care providers to be impacted (over the last 20 years, this has been minimal). Local residents will worry about their security, and some of their normal routines and activities may be disrupted. Gathering activities may influence local young people in undesirable ways. On another note, there will also be positive economic effects associated with the Gathering. The Family brings money and will spend it locally for food and other needs.

In retrospect, the people of Vermont (where two of the last three NortheastRegional Gatherings have been held - one in Granville and the other in Woodford' for the most part found more positive than negative effects from these Gatherings. Local businesses boomed in the nearby villages and no increase in crime occurred. No private property was encroached upon nor threatened. Law enforcement cases were related mostly to traffic violations and an occasional arrest. However, we will be prepared to deal with potential problems through local and regional law enforcement support, assistance and presence.


Opinions vary widely on what degree of law enforcement should be undertaken Some opt for the hard-line approach, others for ignoring what is happening entirely. The best course probably is one that lies between these extremes, one that establishes ground rules that can be met without confrontation.


The first Rainbows to appear on the selected forest will request for conditions they would like to have met as the Gathering progresses. These conditions will not all be acceptable, but most can be incorporated into the management of the Gathering. They will not, for example, want regular motorized patrols of the area by armed law enforcement people. To avoid them, they can be expected to accept (foot patrol) visits by uniformed, unarmed Forest Service employees and will probably want to provide Shanta Seena escorts. The result will be quick mutual acceptance between involved Forest Service personnel and the Rainbows. As this occurs, the need and the interest in providing escorts could quickly disappear. In contrast, a forced, hard-line approach to the management of the Gathering could be expected to escalate confrontations and polarization.

All law enforcement policy development, roles and activity must, of course, be coordinated with local and state law enforcement agencies. Policy on how to deal with drugs and its use will be considered in keeping with current Administration emphasis and policy, and with the policy of state and local law enforcement agencies. Laws and regulations will be enforced.


Generally, the Rainbows have done a good job of this. They will develop, use, and fill slit latrines as they are needed; provide sites for the collection of garbage and trash; recycle material to local recycling centers; attempt to develop good potable water sources; and provide instructions for water treatment. All of this will be administered by the Forest Service and local health and safety agencies.


Following the Gathering, a crew of Rainbows will stay to do final clean-up, erosion control work, and revegetation of denuded areas. Past efforts have resulted in effective and desired outcomes. A key to obtaining the desired results will be to accomplish this work with Forest Service guidance as soon as possible following the Gathering.


The Rainbows will desire, and management of the Gathering will require, a place where a Bus Village and parking area can be developed at existing openings. The potential for trouble will probably be greatest in Bus Village since Rainbow control of activity there is less stringent than it is at the formal Gathering site. These areas will receive additional patrols by law enforcement personnel to control undesirable activities. The Rainbows have made some initial contacts with local landowners to arrange fee parking to address the concern over limited parking on public lands.



Strangely, there will be little, if any, alcohol on the Gathering site itself. This is a Rainbow tradition, and one that is enforced. Though there is a separate, discrete area where alcohol is made available (A-Camp), the Forest Service will be monitoring these activities with law enforcement agents. Amplified music, portable radios and TV sets are not expected, though live ethnic music and bongo drums will must likely make the scene. Picture-taking is condoned if permission is requested and granted. Permission is seldom withheld, but this could be a sensitive issue depending on the mood of the Gathering.

Besides alcohol, the Rainbows have openly condoned the use of marijuana, but have professed to not use other drugs. However, there has been evidence of other drug use at past Gatherings.


Early arrivals at the Gathering site will probably do a lot of scrounging for their food supplies. Some soliciting has occurred at past Gatherings. Later arrivals will either bring money or food, and a distribution system will be developed. Food preparation will occur at several community kitchens. Prepared food will be brought to the Council Circle twice daily and all will serve themselves from pots that will be passed along. The kitchens will haveinteresting names, such as: the "Hobo Hilton", the "Coyote Cafe" and "Swami's Tea House", "Sage Hollow". A sprout garden will probably be established, as well as a special food preparation area for children.


Don't be surprised if a birthing meadow is established. Past Gatherings have involved the birth of several children during the Gathering. The Rainbows have prepared for this type of medical need and attended to their own needs by having mid-wives, nurses and other professionals at the Gathering.


The Rainbows have their own COM or MASH-type unit operated by professionals, including doctors, nurses, EMTs and others amongst their group. With the exception of major traumas, the Rainbows have been able to look after their needs for most medical treatments. The Rainbows also have their own operating and contingency plans for emergencies that may occur. They will contact local medical centers, ambulance and rescue squads, and other emergency units in advance to arrange for treatment and payment for services that may be needed.

The Forest Service has identified a helispot at the Gathering site in the event there is a need for a medi-vac unit and will be contacting emergency services within the area.


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