Alas, any attempt I might have made to put a positive spin on this year’s Red Feather Rainbow Gathering has ended in a bitter defeat. The tacky, tawdry and violent affair that assembled in the mountains outside of the small town of Red Feather Lakes not only failed miserably in the peace and love category, they left the pristine site in a disgraceful condition with beer cans, plastic bags, human and dog feces and an abandoned late-model Audi station wagon for the locals to deal with.
The Utah Forest Service praised the efforts of participants in the national gathering to clean up after the event. But it still cost the Forest Service a whopping $500,000 in staffing, with 587 total incidents including 31 arrests and 136 citations for violations. Of course, with nearly 8,000 people on 1,300 acres, something was bound to go wrong somewhere. Photos of the Utah gathering depict old-school hippie culture with painted school buses, teepee circles, prayer circles, tie-dye and a lot of carefree nudity, the way a Rainbow Gathering should be, but all the costly misbehavior is not to be ignored.
“Rainbows, please don’t go!” Did I really write that? Apparently, my own hopeful idealism tripped me up. Even the most successful of these gatherings are expensive and laborious to the locals no matter where they are held. I went to the Rainbow Family Facebook page and posted a link to my September story along with one of the photographs taken by Crystal Lakes resident Greg Lisco, who had also posted a series of his photos in order to bring some awareness to the group and hopefully to encourage its members to take some responsibility. Both of our postings were deleted, however. Our message was apparently not appreciated.
This is how the Rainbows see themselves, as posted on many of their sites:
The Rainbow Family is one of the largest non-organization of non-members in the world. There are no leaders, and no organization. The family here have been drawn to the community building, care taking of mother earth, nonviolence and living a compassionate and loving life.
There are those who hold to these ideals and do their best to practice them and then there are those who just don’t. Put the two of them together and the bad guys often win. Rainbow Gatherings are a world-wide phenomena and as far as I know, haven’t started any wars. But none of the websites I visited had anything to say about Rainbows gone wrong. It would benefit all parties involved if the invading participants were made more aware of what may be left behind after the party is over.