June 17, 2022 |

The U.S. Forest Service is treating next month’s golden anniversary gathering of the Rainbow Family on public land outside Craig, Colorado, as an “incident.”

The USFS is organizing a response the same way it does during a forest fire. One of the incident team members is Hillary Markin, a Forest Service public information specialist in Wisconsin, where the Rainbow “tribes” held their 48th annual gathering.

Last year, the counter-culture event descended on Carson National Forest near Taos, New Mexico. Markin said the Forest Service knew that the Rainbows were looking to assemble for the 50th gathering in Colorado where their pow-wows began in 1972.

The incident team, like everybody else, found out this past Tuesday that the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest is the host site.

Pictured above: Vehicles parked near the 2021 Rainbow Family Gathering in Taos, NM. Photo by Catalina Fox/Rainbow Family Gatherings Facebook Group.

Ground zero this year is Adams Park west of Steamboat Lake State Park. The Rainbows come from all over the country, some from outside the United States. With the gathering just over the state line, Rainbow social media is pointing pilgrims to Adams Park by way of Baggs. Markin said a national incident management team already has been activated.

Markin said she did not know how many USFS employees have been assigned to the incident team. The number has been “ebbing and flowing,” she added. With an estimated number of 10,000 people estimated to be traveling to the event, Markin said the USFS is amping up its response from previous years.

The designated site for the area is located in one of the six districts that make up the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland. The Laramie Regional Office of the USFS oversees the districts.

Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist Aaron Voos said the Laramie Office is organizing its own responsibilities in the gathering.

Voos said he expects to receive calls from the public who may want to change their own camping plans because of the gathering, and will be looking for alternative areas of the forest.

Reports indicate that Rainbows have started arriving at Adams Park this week after the location was announced. The gathering is expected to peak in early July in the weekend leading up to the Independence Day holiday. Although the Rainbows operate public kitchens and latrines, their buses, campers, cars and tents will be spread out around Adams Park when the gathering is in full swing.

Since the beginning, the Rainbow Tribes have traditionally gathered from around July 4th through July 7th. They operate as if they have no leaders, a social system that creates confusion for the outside world with its rules and procedures, like camping permits. From the Rainbows perspective, they come together to pray for peace and to participate in a social setting that emphasizes egalitarianism based on respect.

The old-school “hippy vibe” of music, juggling, circle sitting and pot-smoking produces a wide range results and interactions. One participant with the nickname “Useless” who attended last year’s event in New Mexico described it his to News 13 KRQE this way.

Not everybody agrees on how that all works out. The Rainbow gathering is viewed negatively by many. This is Public Information Officer Markin’s third gathering. She says the event draws a mixed bag of people with a variety of intentions and behaviors.

As with any large-scale incident, the Forest Service has set up a website that provides daily updates: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/rainbowgathering. A town hall meeting and a Rainbow Family meet and greet is planned in Craig next Wednesday. The meeting is slated for Moffatt County Visitor Center starting at 6 p.m.

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