Rainbow Family to gather near Steamboat

Brief by Central Staff

Forests – July 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Rainbow Family of Living Light has selected a Colorado site for its summer gathering. It won’t be in South Park or Saguache County, but in Routt County in the northwest part of the state.

The Steamboat Pilot describes the festival as the “largest gathering of hippies in North America.” But what does it take to be a member? “A belly button,” says the newspaper, after interviewing one of the advance scouts and organizers for the U.S. gathering that will be held during the first week of July somewhere near Steamboat Springs.

An advance group from the Rainbow Family visited the area near Clark, about 20 miles north of Steamboat Springs. This is near the Zirkel Wilderness Area and also the center of the great blowdown of trees that occurred in 1997.

The Rainbow Family first met in Colorado in 1972, on private and public lands near Granby. It meets at different places each year, usually in national forests. The group last met in Colorado in 1992. Among other criteria, the gatherings require a 100-acre meadow and fresh water

“You will see a very functional city of 60,000 people existing in harmony and peace, and showing an alternative to society,” said a scout and organizer, who goes by the name Bodhi.

The Forest Service expects closer to 20,000 people, but still has concerns. The 1992 gathering had two deaths (due to drug overdoses), three births, five sexual assaults and 43 arrests on charges ranging from child abuse to wildlife violations.

The Rainbow Family gatherings are fairly well organized, and the group is premised on minimal environmental impact and peaceful co-existence. Still, that’s a lot of people in one area of the national forest, said Mike Zopf, director of the Routt County Department of Environmental health.

While local businesses typically enjoy a surge in business, costs of personnel from government agencies typically are also large, $750,000 in the case of the 1992 gathering in Colorado, as adjusted for inflation.

An unofficial website for the Rainbow Family (which insists on not having any official anything) describes the commonalities of “non-members” of the “non-organization” as this: “We’re into intentional community building, non-violence, and alternative lifestyles. We also believe that Peace and Love are a great thing, and there isn’t enough of that in this world. Many of our traditions are based on Native American traditions, and we have a strong orientation to take care of the Earth.”