Forest gathering appears ‘pretty calm,’ official says

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Monumental parking problems aside, the Rainbow Family Gathering in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Skamania County appears to be progressing in a mellow fashion befitting the group’s name, officials said Monday.

However, it remains unclear what condition the forest’s Skookum Meadows portion will emerge once participants depart.

An estimated 20,000 outdoors enthusiasts, counterculture activists and spiritual seekers celebrated the Fourth of July in the national forest as part of the annual Rainbow Family Gathering, officials said. Campers from across the United States and Canada converged on the forest Friday for the event’s official first day.

The Rainbow Family, which started in 1972, has no official leaders or members. The event focuses on people living in harmony together without the constraints of capitalism and modern technology. The event is scheduled to end Thursday.

“It’s been pretty calm as far as what I’ve heard,” said Ken Sandusky, an assistant spokesman with Gifford Pinchot National Forest. He cautioned forest officials were taking a “wait and see” attitude because they “don’t know everything going on.”

Law-enforcement officials had been “pretty busy enforcing the law,” he noted.

Official numbers on citations and arrests linked to the gathering’s first three days were not available.

Skamania County Sheriff Dave Brown on Monday did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Forest officials are expecting the vast majority of the Rainbow Family Gathering will leave in the “next few days,” Sandusky said. A small group is expected to stay behind “to clean and rehabilitate” the site.

“My research has shown we can have decent faith they will live up to that promise they’ve made,” Sandusky said. He added forest officials are focused on maintaining the forest’s unspoiled beauty for future visitors.

On Friday, many Rainbow Family campers told The Columbian they planned to leave the campgrounds today.

Independence Day held special significance, campers said Friday. Prior to noon, attendees would be asked to meditate for peace rather than speak. The morning silence would be replaced in the afternoon by screams of joy, music of all genres and a party that would last late into the night.