1991 Vermont Gathering Report
E. PARTICIPANT PROFILE
Rainbow Family members will tell you. "Everyone is Rainbow, some just don't
know it yet." And, "The only criteria for being Rainbow is that you have a
belly button." The human diversity seen at the 1991 Rainbow Gathering seems
to substantiate these claims.
In reality, only a portion of those attending a Rainbow Gathering are true
Rainbows. This core group consists of people who were part of the 19601s
hippie movement, plus others from younger generations who espouse that
lifestyle and value system. Even within this core group diversity abounds.
Some still live the hippie life style; others are regularly a part of
mainstream society but annually/periodically attend Rainbow Gatherings to
reconnect with bygone days and friends. They are young, they are old;
straight and gay; long haired, skin headed and clad in dreadlocks; totally
naked and fully clothed; those who discuss philosophy at length and those
who "veg-out" all day; college graduates and high school drop outs; the
THE FINAL REPORT Continued.
employed and the chronically unemployed. The Rainbow philosophy of
acceptance and tolerance of all people and lifestyles allows such dichotomies
to flourish. Rainbows are also bound together by their common belief and
desire for peace, love and respect for planet Earth and all its inhabitants.
The gathering attracts any others. There are other counter-culture groups
represented: religious and satanic cults and biker gangs. There are the
"hangers-on"; homeless and chronically unemployed people who follow the
Rainbows because they know they will be accepted, fed and cared for. And
there are the curiosity seekers; local citizens as well as those traveling
across country and from abroad to experience the phenomena of a Rainbow
Children of all ages were present at the gathering. Some came with families
arriving with the seed camp, others came for just a day. The Rainbow Family
values children as the future of their society, and in general they are well
cared for. They are exposed to a lifestyle some call character building,
where self reliance and self determination are taught. But they live in a
permissive society which lacks structure and discipline and which accepts
aberrant behavior without question. Sometimes one is left to wonder about
the effects this exposure will have on the young.
Values held and expressed at a Rainbow gathering are equally diverse. It
is an event where virtually "anything goes". There seem to be a few core
values, however, that are shared by all Rainbows.
ALCOHOL - Rainbows openly reject the use of alcohol, regarding it as a
substance that creates negative vibrations within those who imbibe. The
Family tries to restrict its use to a separate location, "A" camp, usually
away from the main activities of the gathering. However, during the 1991
gathering, there was significant casual alcohol use inside the gathering.
Family members did little to council or move those using alcohol out of the
main gathering as they typically do. This is a reflection on the lack of
Shanti Sena involvement this year. Some Family members, in particular a
woman named No Guns, insisted that government officials were responsible for
"A" camp's continual supply of beer. reportedly in an attempt to discredit
the Family and disrupt gathering activities.
DRUGS - The Rainbow Family condones the use of marijuana and mushrooms.
viewing them as gentle, healing herbs rather than drugs. They openly
discourage the use of man-made substances such as LSD, crack and heroin.
However, use of these and other drugs was apparent. Many attendees openly
discussed drugs they were using. and the Rainbow Family readily admits to a
wide variety of drugs available at the gathering. Open drug dealing was
rare, although several arrests resulted from drug investigations on site.
NUDITY - Nudity is accepted and common amongst Rainbow gatherers. However.
the Family does not tolerate sexually deviant behavior. Reports of males
"grabbing" females were discussed st council meetings where the behavior was
frowned on. One attendee was removed from Kiddie Village by Rainbow Shanti
Sena and remanded to law enforcement officials after he displayed
inappropriate sexual behavior near Kiddie Village.
FLAG BURNlNG - Rainbows reject a great deal about mainstream society. They
refute the values of capitalism, representative democracy and governmental
rule in general. However, they fiercely defend their 1st amendment rights
to free speech and peaceful assembly. Many will speak disrespectfully, even
abusively, about the things other Americans cherish. Some do so out of true
conviction, others in an attempt to shock or harass the listener. Their
expressions take many forms. During their July 4th celebrations a small
group of attendees held an organized burning of the American flag, an action
that symbolized their distaste for and independence from authority of any
kind. Although the event caused a great deal of stress within the incident
command organization, it was ultimately viewed as a legal form of
H. RAINBOW ORGANIZATION AND DECISION-MAKING
The Rainbow Family has no formal charter or organization. There are no dues
or membership fees collected. All Rainbows are equal and no one is given
the right to speak for the entire Family. Therefore, there is no leadership
structure. Without a formal organization or leader, outsiders are forced to
deal with the huge mass of gathering individuals in an attempt to
communicate with the Family and regulate their actions.
Rainbow Family decisions are made at council meetings which occur throughout
the year at regional and national gatherings, and at other times as needed.
All are welcome to attend and speak. A staff bearing a feather is passed
within the council circle. The person who holds the staff is the speaker.
Generally that person is heard out. Family issues, decisions and actions
are discussed at councils. Decisions are accepted only if consensus is
reached among those attending the council. One person can effectively block
any Family action simply by withholding their individual approval.
Once reached, a decision is described as consented to by the council. If
written, it will not be signed. Seldom will an individual be given
authority to speak for the Family. No council decision is a final decision;
it can be changed at any time based on new input heard at a future council.
This makes it nearly impossible for administering officials to get
commitment or guaranteed compliance from the Family for anything they are
asked or expected to do. This was an unending source of frustration and
irritation for responsible agency staff working with the Rainbow Family.
I. SHANTI SENA
The Rainbow Family has no formal rules, laws or law enforcement body
governing itself. They claim to have adequate capabilities to police their
gatherings of 10,000 to 20,000 people with the help of their Shanti Sena.
Anyone can be Shanti Sena, meaning peace keeper or seeker, they need only
declare that they are. They are a group of self-designated individuals.
They have no authority given to them, no code of regulations to administer
and no code of conduct to follow in their duties. They simply do whatever
they personally feel is necessary to keep general order during the
gathering. Normally they use friendly persuasion and peer pressure to
change unacceptable behavior. Except in extreme case, the Family does not
approve of the using force to control the actions of others.
Within the gathering the Shanti Sena are fairly effective in maintaining
acceptable Rainbow standards of conduct. They are usually aggressive about
dealing with people who are physically abusive to others, sexually perverse
and those consuming or under the influence of alcohol. They tell
administering officials and local citizens that they will "police" their
People outside the gathering, but in reality the Shanti Sena are rarely
active outside the gathering limits.
During the 1991 gathering, there was no organized Shanti Sena. A few
individuals claimed Shanti Sena status. but their peacekeeping attempts were
sporadic and ineffective. Rainbow sisters were noticeably less active in
Shanti Sena roles than in years past. The group kept a periodic presence at
front and back gates and spent time and energy at "A" camp trying to keep
that group consolidated and isolated from other gatherers and gathering
activities. They also assisted in managing parking areas and shuttle
services. At the beginning of the gathering the Family responded to
complaints from local businesses about shoplifting and loitering by
stationing one Shanti Sena at several local stores for several days. That
appeared to be the extent of their policing/deterrent efforts. IC team
members and law enforcement officials also began deliberate daily visits and
walk-throughs at all local businesses in response to the complaints. Agency
officials also spoke to the Family about general nuisance complaints
(loitering on private property, nudity in town, panhandling and illegal
parking) in an attempt to get Shanti Send assistance. However. little
effort or effect was made by the Shanti Sena.
J. GATHERING FEATURES
The 1991 Rainbow Gathering covered approximately 7000 acres of National
Forest System land. This included the area from front gate, north 2.5 miles
to main meadow and 1.5 miles northeast to Bus Village. The event in Vermont
had all the common features of a Rainbow gathering as described below.
1. FRONT GATE/WELCOME CENTER - Front gate is the main entrance to the
Rainbow gathering. For the 1991 event it was located at Texas Meadows. a
2.5 hike from the main gathering area. This area and nearby forest roads
provided parking for the majority of visitors. Front gate was staffed by
Family members who greeted new arrivals, directed them to parking facilities
and shuttle services and gave them a general orientation to the gathering.
They also distributed a variety of information (mostly Rainbow generated).
A welcome kitchen was on site, providing meals and liquid refreshments.
Texas Meadows had some drawbacks as front gate. It's distance from the main
gathering area (2.5 miles) exceeded the desired maximum distance by about a
mile. It was located just north of Texas Falls Recreation Area, a popular
developed day use facility. Forest Service officials were concerned that
heavy traffic going through Texas Falls enroute to front gate might result
in user conflicts and traffic flow problems. However, given the limited
choices for access into the Rob Ford Meadows, Texas Meadows was chosen
because it had the best parking potential and it was located well off all
major highways, reducing the likelihood of traffic flow problems on main
2. BACK GATE - The other entrance into the 1991 gathering was on Forest Road
55 off State Route 100 in Granville. Vermont. From Route 100 it was .75
mile to the gathering site. About half way in, at the junction of FR 55 and
the Bagley road (FR 208), the Rainbow Family and Forest Service maintained a
check point gate to regulate traffic into the area. The intent was that
this "back door" to the gathering would provide access to Bus Village and
serve as the access route for Rainbow supply vehicles and administrative and
emergency vehicles. Except for Bus Village, there was no parking on NFS
land in this area, and there was limited parking on nearby private land.
However, because of the short distance through back gate as compared to
front gate, many people opted to park their vehicles at or near Texas
Meadows, get a shuttle to back gate where they were dropped off at the
junction of FR 55 and FR 50 and hike the .1 mile into the gathering. Others
entered the gathering through back gate on bicycle and horseback. The
majority of people left the gathering through back gate, many waiting over
four hours for a shuttle ride back to the Texas Meadows parking areas.
"A" camp was also located at beck gate. (Refer to "A" Camp on page 21.)
3 BUS VILLAGE - Bus Village is 8 parking/camping area for self contained
live-in type vehicles only, although a few passenger cars parked there early
in the event and were permitted to stay. Typically Bus Village is located
within walking distance of, but outside the plain gathering area. This year
it was located in Christmas Tree Meadow, a one mile hike from the main
meadow. It filled up on June 30 and overflow parking began on FR 50. In
total 405 vehicles occupied this area. Vehicles included old converted
buses, small campers, Winebagos and mini-vans.
4. MAIN MEADOW - Main meadow is an important feature of the gathering.
Ideally it is a large open meadow that can accommodate several thousand
people. During the gathering the Family will hold its council meetings in
the mainmeadow. Communal meals are also served here with the various
kitchens bringing food to be shared. Most importantly, main meadow is the
site of the July 4th peace vigil in which thousands of gathering visitors
join hands in a circle and pray/meditate for world peace and healing.
Around noon the vigil is broken and celebrations begin with music, dancing
and merry making. Some Rainbows believe that main meadow is a sacred spot;
a camp for visiting spirits.
The main meadow for the 1991 gathering was a 10 acre opening in the center
of Rob Ford Meadows. It was suitable for its intended purpose. Most days
it was a busy spot with hundreds of people milling about. On July 4 it
literally became a sea of humanity.
5 INFORMATION CENTER - On the south edge of main meadow the Rainbow Family
set up its open-air information center. It consisted of a tarped reception
area which was staffed with Family members who welcomed visitors, including
the media; answered questions; gave directions; assisted the lost; and
distributed all manner of information. Information staff also managed
several large bulletin boards containing gathering announcements; activity
schedules; visitor messages; reminders and suggestions on sanitation,
recycling and personal hygiene as well as all sorts of flyers promoting
causes, beliefs, rallies, etc. A large, four-panel map showing the
gathering's layout and features was also set up in this area.
6. KITCHENS - At its peak the gathering included over 50 kitchens, all
centers of nourishment and social activity. Some served only tea and
coffee, or other single food items such as baked goods, popcorn, donuts or
fresh sprouts. Others provided full meal service two or three times daily.
Menus varied as did the kitchens' names: Lovin Ovens, Taco Mike's, Om Tea
Home, Sage Hollow, Looney Saloon, Contradiction Kitchen, Paradise Pancakes,
Donut Factory and Irish Coffee House. Anyone can set up a kitchen. Like
everything at a Rainbow gathering. they are run by volunteers.
All gathering kitchens were open air structures constructed of dead and down
wood, usually with a tarped overhead frame to shelter it from the weather.
Cooking was done mostly over open fires in large, rock lined fire pits. A
few kitchens built ovens from mud, stone and 55 gallon drums. Each kitchen
typically had a preparation and serving counter; storage area; and logs,
rocks or tree butts for diners to sit on. Each also had compost and gray
water pits associated with it, as well as nearby latrine facilities.
Sanitation at the kitchens was a major concern of the Rainbow Family, the
Forest Service and Vermont Department of Health. Health officials made
daily visits offering instructions on proper sanitation connected with food
handling and preparation. This included information an water treatment;
hand washing and dish and equipment cleaning; composting and selection and
use of nonperishable foods. Most kitchens had a hand washing station and a
three-bucket dish washing system (hot soapy wash, hot disinfectant rinse,
hot clear rinse) with instructional signs posted to encourage proper use.
Compost and gray water pits were located outside the kitchen and were to be
covered when not in use. Latrines were to be an adequate distance from the
kitchen, properly constructed and covered at all times. Health officials
conducting routine inspections issued daily reminders of proper sanitation
procedures. They issued only one closure warning to a kitchen whose latrine
was inadequate and too close to the kitchen. No official closure orders
were issued. There were no known food-borne disease problems.
FOOD - Food supplies came from a variety of sources. Some kitchen
volunteers brought all or part of their own supplies. Most kitchens.
however, depended on Family food supplies. Communal supplies were furnished
by participants who donated food, Family benefactors who donated food or
money for its purchase and from direct purchases made by the Family with
money from the Family bank or magic hat donations. Family members made
frequent buying trips to Boston where they purchased food in bulk. Some
food was obtained from supermarket dumpsters. Food supplies were
distributed to kitchens as requested. Keeping a central food supply gave
the Family some control over kitchen sanitation. Kitchens that didn't meet
minimum standards were cut off.
Most gathering kitchens featured vegetarian menus with fresh fruit and
vegetables and dried beans and grains as the base. Kitchens often offered
baked goods: breads. rolls, pies and cakes. The local game warden
investigated reports of a poached deer at one kitchen. The warden verified
the report, confiscated the deer and imposed a $250.00 fine.
Kitchens were open to all gathering participants. Once prepared food was
available on a first-come, first-served basis. Everyone must provide and
care for their own eating and drinking utensils. Many kitchens brought
prepared food to the main meadow for a communal supper. Those who consumed
kitchen meals were asked to make monetary or volunteer time contributions,
but no one was turned away if they did not or could not.
Government employees working at the gathering were often offered food and
drinks. Most made it a personal policy to decline such offers because of
the uncertain food handling and preparations practices.
7 CAMPS - Camps were simply areas where groups of individuals set up their
tents or other shelters, some being associated with kitchens. Some
consisted of individual family units. Others were larger groups who shared
something in common. Some camps formed around people coming from the same
geographical area: The New England Region Family (NERF) Camp. the Arizona
Camp or the Bay State Camp. Other camps contained people with common
religious beliefs: Jesus Camp and Krishna Camp; or common bonds of gender,
sexual preference or avocation: Sister. Fairie and Earth First camps. Camp
entrances were signed; some with elaborately decorated clothe banners,
others with simple pen and cardboard posters.
8. "A" CAMP - "A" Camp is a perennial feature of Rainbow gatherings, one
that is always a major concern to the Rainbow Family and administering
officials alike. The common bond tying "A" Camp residents together is
their excessive use of alcohol. Because the Rainbow Family does not
tolerate alcohol consumption within the gathering, "A" Camp is always
located on the outskirts of the site.
At the Vermont gathering, "A" Camp was one of the first features to appear,
along with the seed camp in May. It was located at back gate, adjacent to
the check point gate, where it remained until residents broke camp on July
6. A few then set up a small camp in the woods at the lower end of the
gathering. Residents purchased beer by the keg at the Granville Country
Store. By the end of the gathering the camp matched its record 200 kegs
"A" Camp was easily accessed from State Route 100 and was frequented by area
residents, often miners. Local citizens who were concerned about the safety
and well being of their youths. requested Rainbow assistance. The Family
told the "A" Camp residents not the serve the miners. They complied, but
they also confiscated alcohol which the miners brought into the camp. This
caused minor confrontations and hard feelings. In attempts to raise beer
money, "A" campers often charged entrance fees at back gate and panhandled
from people passing by. They were nearly always in some state of
intoxication, some being quite belligerent to those they contacted.
Both Rainbow Shanti Sena and government law enforcement officials made
frequent visits to "A" Camp. They were almost always verbally harassed, but
their presence seemed to keep things quieter and under control.
In general, "A" Camp was a nuisance to be tolerated. It's location at back
gate was not ideal because of the large number of gatherers who accessed the
gathering this way. Future gatherings should strive to keep "A" Camp away
from all major access points where increased exposure heightens the
possibility of confrontations.
9. C.A.L.M. - Medical needs at the gathering were attended to by the
C.A.L.M. unit (Center for Alternative Living Medicine). A volunteer staff
consisted of a variety of health care people: medical doctors, registered
nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists, occupational therapists, midwives,
emergency medical technicians, chiropractors, masseurs, acupuncturists and
faith healers. Most had valid credentials. Some had expired licenses or
partial schooling with no certification. They dispensed herbal and
non-prescription drugs and provided first aid services. All did their best
to help those in need.
There was one C.A.L.M. unit at the 1991 gathering. located in the center of
the site near Kiddie Village. Visitors sought relief from headaches;
diarrhea; sore and blistered feet; muscle strain and sprains; cuts. bruises,
burns and other skin irritations as well as occasional dehydration. One
birth was attended to. A back injury and several drug overdoses were
initially treated at C.A.L.M. but later referred to the local medical
emergency services. During the gathering, C.A.L.M. personnel informed
officials that they had a small outbreak of head lice which they were
treating with a Lindaine rinse, pine pitch and/or head shavings.
10. EMERGENCY SERVICES - The Rainbow Family states that they are capable of
handling their own medical needs. Initially, the Family told the local
rescue squad that they would not need their services. In reality, C.A.L.M.
is prepared to handle routine first aid needs. Anything more complicated
requires outside assistance.
The Forest Service prepared a safety plan for this event. It addressed
issues associated with administering a large social gathering including the
health and safety of employees assigned to the event and those attending the
gathering. It described strategies for handling medical emergencies and
epidemic illnesses. It identified a network of area health care resources
to be used if needed. It also outlined sanitation guidelines to be followed
during the event.
There were no emergency air evacuation services available at the 1991
gathering. The Forest Service investigated the possibilities and found that
the closest service originated in Plattsburgh, New York, with 2.5 hours
turnaround time. All felt emergency situations could be adequately handled
in a timely fashion using ground resources. The Forest Service kept its
emergency rescue vehicles and equipment on stand by, and they coordinated
with local emergency medical services for their assistance.
Granville, Vermont is served by a single EMS unit, the Valley Rescue Squad
(VRS). They were the first squad called in a medical emergency. Other local
communities provided back up squads. The Forest Service made initial
contact with VRS in early June and kept them informed of gathering
conditions. In total. VRS responded to 7 calls associated with the
gathering; 1 back injury, 1 infant death and 5 drug overdoses.
Initial protocol for extracting an individual in need of emergency medical
care was for the person to be carried out to the check point gate on FR 55
by either Rainbow Family members or law enforcement officials. They were
met there by rescue squad EMT's, given initial treatment, stabilized and
transported to medical facilities if needed. After the first incident,
however, the VRS requested and received permission to drive emergency
vehicles into the gathering to extract patients. This greatly improved the
efficiency of their operations.
Valley Rescue Squad's performance was exemplary. However, they felt the
gathering placed a burden on their limited resources, especially since the
gathering occurred during an already busy holiday week. One staff member
stated that "they saw as much action in this one week as they normally see
in months." They felt that the Rainbow Family misled them by stating
initially that they would handle their own medical needs, and they were
given inadequate warning about the number and kinds of medical situations
they would be asked to attend to. For all their help the VRS received no
formal thanks or remuneration from the Rainbow Family.
Final Report - Continued
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