Rainbow Gathering could attract 20,000
Officials concerned about use of drugs

By Betsy Liley
Free Press Staff Writer

Campers are beginning to converge on the Green Mountain National Forest For a Fourth of July weekend event, known as the Rainbow Gathering, that might attract as many as 20,000 people.

It would be the first time the annual event, which has been compared to the famous Woodstock, N.Y., musicfest, is held in the Northeast. A Gathering advance team is working with the U.S. Forest Service to reinforce trails, build parking areas and coordinate law enforcement near Granville.

But Gov. Richard A. Snelling is concerned about ensuring that those attending the Gathering do not break Vermont laws, especially those involving illegal drug use.

"You don't say that we're going to have a double standard: a set of rules for the people that live in Vermont and a set of rules for the people who visit Vermont," Snelling spokesman Glenn Gershaneck said.

"It means doing what's necessary to make sure the state police, the sheriffs, people in positions of responsibility, exercise that authority."

Gershaneck said Snelling will try to involve the U.S. Attorney's Office in guaranteeing enforcement.

National Forest Service spokeswoman Sue Denoncour is familiar with the event. The 1990 national Rainbow Gathering was held in Superior National Forest in Minnesota, with a peak attendance of 13,000, she said.

"They're kind of a reflection of the hippie era from the '60's," she said of those attending. "There are all kinds of people that show up... doctors and lawyers from the cities kind of re-enacting their youth Others are people that never grew out of it.

Chris Wood of Montpelier is active with the Rainbow Coalition political group, which is not connected with the Rainbow Gathering. But Wood said he had received several telephone inquiries about it.

"It's back-to-the-Earth-type people," Wood said. "It's a giant peace gathering. They camp out. It's a healing-the-Earth type of thing."

Vermont has been host to two regional Gatherings, in 1988 and 1989, each of which attracted a few thousand people.

Organizers for the national event indicated in the fall that this year's Gathering would likely occur in the Northeast. "Last week was when they first indicated that definitely they were coming to Vermont," Denoncour said.

The advance team of campers is preparing parking areas, what Gathering goers call "bus village," Forest Service officials have asked them to reinforce acess trails to prevent erosion from the crowds using them, Denoncour said.

"The Rainbows say they condone marijuana use. They do not condone other drug use. That doesn't mean it doesn't go on," Denoncour said.

As many as a dozen Forest Service law enforcement officials from across the United States as well as other Forest Service staff will be brought in for the event. The Forest Service will contract with some Vermont sheriffs and coordinate with Vermont State Police.

Vermont State Police Maj. John Sinclair said the number of troopers involved will depend on the crowd's size.

"We've had no trouble with the ones previously," Sinclair said. "There are all types of festivals that happen. ... Law enforcement doesn't just sit there waiting for someone to light up a joint.


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