Rainbow Gathering Cost/Benefit

by lizard

The wikipedia entry for the Rainbow Family of Living Light offers a decent general description:

Rainbow Gatherings are temporary intentional communities,[1] typically held in outdoor settings, and espousing and practicing ideals of peace, love, harmony, freedom and community, as a consciously expressed alternative to mainstream popular culture, consumerism, capitalism and mass media.

Rainbow Gatherings and the Rainbow Family of Living Light (usually abbreviated to “Rainbow Family”) are an expression of a Utopian impulse, combined with bohemianism, hipster and hippie culture, with roots clearly traceable to the counterculture of the 1960s. Mainstream society is commonly referred to and viewed as “Babylon”, connoting the participants’ widely held belief that modern lifestyles and systems of government are unhealthy, unsustainable, exploitative and out of harmony with the natural systems of the planet. The original Rainbow Gathering was in 1972, and has been held annually in the United States from July 1 through 7 every year on National Forest land.[2] Throughout the year, regional and international gatherings are held in the United States and throughout the rest of the world respectively.

Relations with law enforcement and local communities are frequently an issue. Media coverage is often unfavorable, focusing on drug use, nudity, assaults, fugitives, serious traffic charges such as drunken driving and the countercultural aspects of the assemblage. Nevertheless, the Gatherings have proven a durable and international phenomenon for over 40 years.

The thing about the system is it’s the inescapable matrix in which we exist, and a large gathering of those carrying the torch of the long-ago commodified counter-culture can’t help but cause resources to be allocated toward “managing” their impact.

Yesterday the Governor signed an order of emergency to free up funds for Beaverhead County. One area already impacted is medical services. From the article:

Carol Kennedy, chief clinical officer for Barrett Hospital and Healthcare in Dillon, said as of Monday the hospital had received 49 emergency room visits from people with the Rainbow gathering at a total cost of $101,000. The hospital received a total of 30 ER visits in 2000 from Rainbow Family members.

Barrett Hospital will have access to state emergency money to help cover those costs.

Kennedy is hopeful that a medic tent setup last week at the gathering and manned by Rainbow volunteers, including an ER doctor from Kentucky and a midwife from Missoula, will reduce the number of Rainbows visiting the Barrett emergency room.

I think the media has so far been pretty fair with its coverage. In his weekly column, Ochenski recalls the 2000 gathering, and contrasts the impact on the land of the Rainbow Family with then Governor Racicot’s. It’s worth reading.

Anyway, I hope the positive outweighs the negative this week, because times are tough for a lot of people, and resources are limited.


  1. Big Johansson

    Any “rape tents” being set up?

    • lizard19

      yes, supplied with rape kits to clean them women out.

    • JC

      Just the ones the federal marshals setup to extract an extortion from the tickets that were written. They did court on Friday not far away from the site. Mostly trumped up tickets to get some individuals into the federal dragnet.

  2. NamelessRange

    I think the effect the Rainbow Gathering will have on the local communities is a bit overblown. I feel for the locals,who live where they live largely because of the solitude their little corner of MT offers. But a week isn’t that long, and economically that little corner of MT will probably be getting a year’s worth of visitors this week.

    I do wonder about specific environmental effects. Whether it was correct or not, the paper said they dig a latrine ditch. Is 5,000+ people shitting in a ditch on the headwaters of the Big Hole for a week a good thing? It was a 3 week permitting process for me to put a septic system in my backyard for my family of 3, and the Upper Bighole is below its target cfs so far this summer.

    I also specifically wonder about the effect on nearby Van Houten Lake. Every Rainbower will drive by this lake on their way to Skinner Meadows. It’s only a few acres in size, and yearly it gets a few hundred visitors at most. A few thousand people could litterally fish it out in a few days. If a thousand individuals stop to drop a line in, that lake(pond) will get 4 years worth of pressure in a week. Which, worse case scenario, means it becomes a high priority for the FWP to stock in the near future.

    I hope they all enjoy themselves. I noticed JC said they will be living out their, “anrchistic ideals”, which is somewhat contradictory. The only reason such a gathering in such a beautiful place is possible is the fact that Government exists to protect it. The concept and protection of public lands are necessarily excluded under a philosophical anarchy.

    I hope they brought their bug dope.

    • JC

      NR, if you could see the quantity of cow pies at Saginaw Meadows, you’d rethink your statement about slit trenches vs. cows shitting in the streams. There will be hundreds to thousands of cows released into meadows in the near future. In some places I was counting about 1 cow pie per 10 sq ft. left over from last year.

      Last Gathering, some locals were touting upwards of $35,000 extra revenue due to the Gathering. Not a bad economic boost, if you ask me. Judging by what I saw and heard in neighboring communities, it will be an equally good boost for Jackson, Wisdom, Dillon, Darby and Hamilton.

      As to Van Houten Lake, it is not on the road into the site, it is beyond the turnoff, and few, if any Gathering participants fish or have MT fishing licenses. So there was no driveby traffic there. A handful would walk there every day to go swimming. A couple people camped there at the campgrounds. Minimal impact for a 4th of July weekend. A lot less than say at Seeley Lake.

      And for your final dig, NR, “the Government” is not the big protective entity you may think it is. Cattle ranching has taken a severe toll on watersheds in the Bighole. It’s funny, because ranchers need water to irrigate, yet their upstream management schemes and grazing tend to reduce water availability. Couple that with irrigation takeouts, and instream flows in the Bighole are severely impacted by ranching and its associated activities. But I’ll take up your thoughts about “the Government” and anarchy and the 1st Amendment at a later date if I can find time.

      And bug dope? Naw, that’s not the kind of dope that was in abundant supply. And the insect count was very low. Minimal mosquitoes, and the biting deer and horse flies had just begun to hatch due to the late snows and cool weather. I didn’t see or hear of any ticks, either.




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