Contact: Charlotte Wiggins or Terry Miller
June 18, 1996
573-364-4621 Rolla
573-325-4233 Winona


THOMASVILLE, Mo. -- The Mark Twain National Forest (US Forest Service, USDA) is setting up a temporary office in Thomasville, Mo. to manage the annual North American Rainbow Gathering, scheduled to take place June 28-July 10.

A team of specialists trained and experienced in responding to emergency situations, such as wildfires, has been called in to handle the logistics and coordination of the use of National Forest property. The team will work with local communities, law enforcement agencies and government representatives to meet their needs and concerns.

An estimated 20,000 people will converge at a site 3 miles north of here on National Forest property on the Doniphan/Eleven Point Ranger District of the Mark Twain National Forest between now and July 10.

The Rainbow "Family" is an informal network of people who gather each year on a different National Forest. There are no "leaders," and no official organization. Decisions are made by consensus via councils. Their dress and activities are similar in many ways to the flower children of the 1960's. During past gatherings, the annual event generated large crowds and heavy traffic in remote and rural areas. Participants were also cited for nudity and drug use.

With the number of expected participants, there are many concerns, both environmental and social.

"Let me assure you that the Forest Service will do everything we can to insure that the gathering is conducted safely and peacefully with a minimum of disruption to local communities, neighbors, and the natural resources of the National Forest," said Mark Twain National Forest Supervisor Randy Moore.

Moore said the Forest Service's main objective during the event will be to provide for the safety and welfare of all concerned; those attending the gathering, nearby residents, local communities, and other National Forest visitors.

"We have already contacted all of the law enforcement agencies that may be affected, and will be bringing in additional Forest Service law enforcement officers to assist the effort. National Forest, State and local laws 6 regulations will be enforced around the perimeter of the gathering site and law enforcement will maintain a constant presence within the area."

As a result of past gatherings, the Forest Service in 1988 challenged the Rainbow Family from congregating on National Forests A federal court ruled that the group has a constitutional right to gather and that, the Forest Service is obligated to cooperate with the Rainbow Family to work out the logistics for the annual gathering. A refusal by the Forest Service would violate their constitutional right of free speech and the right to gather.

The Forest Service will also work with the group to minimize environmental effects. In general, past gatherings have minimized the impact of such a large number of people by collecting and disposing of garbage, treating toilet facilities with lime and covering them, and reseeding are which have been compacted and denuded. The Forest Service will also work with the Rainbows to alleviate parking and traffic congestion along Forest Road 3173.

Several dozen people have already moved into the site. It is estimated several people will remain after July 10 to help rehabilitate the site. The group should leave the area by the first of August.

Editor's Note: The phone number at the temporary headquarters for the public information office is

"The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in its programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication of program information (braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact the USDA Office of Communications at (202) 720-2791.

"To file a complaint, write the Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250, or call (202) 720-7327 (voice) or (202) 720-1127 (TDD). USDA is an equal employment opportunity employer."

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