Children of '60s gather in Vt.

By Yvonne Daley

GRANVILLE, Vt - Like pilgrims to some holy place, members of the Rainbow Family of Living Light - decked out in crystals. feathers and tie-dyed clothing - are clogging roads in and out of Granvillie, a rural community of fewer than 300 in the heart of the Green Mountain National Forest. By tomorrow, as many as 20.000 members of the Rainbow Family - a loosely knit group connected by a commitment to peace and environmental protection -along with their hangers-on and a contingent of indigents who have atached themselves to the family - will be camped out in wildflower-trimmed meadows and lush woods near Texas Falls.

The Rainbow Family began holding annual meetings in America's national forests 20 years ago. This is the first time the national gathering has been held in the North-east although regional gatherings were held the last two years in Vermont. After unpleasant experiences elsewhere in recent years, family members said they chose Vermont for this year's national gathering because Vermonters seem more amenable to their message and lifestyle.

"It's the first-gathering I've come to when there hasn't been a policeman on my path." said Michael John ("call me Parmesansan") of Pismo Beach, Calif., who has been attending Rainbow Family Annual gathering for a decade.

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The highlight of the gathering - formally running July 1-7 is the circle of Peace on July 4th, a daylong meditation for peace and protection of the Earth.

Residents in the tiny valley communities of Granville, Hancock and Rochester met with members of the Rainbow Family Wednesday night to iron out potential problems. If the meeting was any indication, locals were more curious than concerned.

Rainbow Family member Red Moon Song, a 46-year old mother of three who became a gypsy working for peace and justice once her children grew up, said communities can expect to make between $1 million and $3 million from the gathering.

The state Health Department on Thursday gave the Rainbow Family gathering its approval after Robert O'Grady, director of the Environmental Health Division and five state sanitation experts toured the camp site and took water samples.

"There were no public health problems identified. I'm very impressed. My function was to look at sanitation facilities, kitchen areas and the "Kid Village," the on-site day care center, O'Grady said.

Gov. Richard Snelling was less than impressed, however. He criticized the US Forest Service for not requiring a bond or deposit from the group to ensure participants will leave the land the way they found it. A report form Minnesota, where Rainbows met last year, complained of drug abuse and open latrines.

"I don't plan to hassle these people. But I will appreciate it if they will remember they are our visitors, and abide by our laws and protect our people," said Snelling.

The biggest snag has turned out to be parking. A lot near Texas Falls can hold 1,500 cars but more space is needed. Rainbow Family members spent last week negotiating to rent pastures from nearby farmers.

Shuttles will transport participants to the main village.

Advocates for the region's poor and homeless had worried that emergency food shelves would be depleted after about 40 Rainbow Family members applied for benefits earlier this month. After meeting with local officials, family members sent out letters and posted signs telling their "brothers and sisters" there was "plenty of food at home" and not ask for food that might be needed by local residents.

Since then, no Rainbow Family members have requested food at the Addison County Low-Income Advocacy Council, according to Desi Caren, an outreach caseworker. Jane Kitchel, Vermont's deputy commissioner of social welfare, said about 60 family members had applied for food stamps, and about 15 had been approved thus far. Applicants must prove they intend to stay in Vermont, have no other source of income and have not received assistance elsewhere.

By mid-week, more than 3,000 members of the family had already gathered at the site, where an advance team has spent the past month digging latrines, putting in water supply systems, establishing first-aid stations, the day-care center and dozens of kitchens.

"Everyone knows what has to be done," said Midget, a mechanic's assistant from "everywhere" who has been coming to gatherings for 10 years.

Like Midget, family members often use Indian names or nicknames or go on a first-name basis.

On this day Midget, Jo, who hails from Harvard, Mass., and Rex B. Lightheart - he swears that's his given name - from Orlando, Fla., are cooking up a massive batch of food. At the end of a trail of pink ribbons, volunteers are digging latrines.

"I'm almost 50. I didn't realize at this time of my life I'd still be having so much fun," said Lightheart.

Jo and Midget are smearing government-supply peanut butter on celery sticks donated by a local food co-op. Says Jo: "I fit right in. I'm a hippie.

I've always been a hippie. Back at home, I cook and heat with wood. I've even got an outhouse." And Sunshine, who gave birth June 17 to a healthy boy in a teepee converted into a birthing room, said she is delighted to have brought her son into the world at the gathering. She named him Forest Moon.

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