Public forum displays mixed bag of opinions about potential Rainbow Gathering in Routt County

Rainbow Roses and her van were hard to miss as she pulled up to a public forum about the Rainbow Family at Bud Werner Memorial Library on Saturday, June 11, 2022. She has been attending Rainbow Gatherings since the first one in 1972, when she was 11.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

On Saturday, June 11, Steamboat local Angie Gamble hosted a presentation on the Rainbow Gathering’s history at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

The 50th Rainbow Family of Living Light Gathering of the Tribes is planned to take place in Colorado, and it’s looking more and more likely it could be held in or near Routt County. Members of the Rainbow Family will be meeting this week just outside of Oak Creek to compare different sites in Colorado that have been scouted in recent weeks.

The last time the Rainbow Gathering was in Routt County was in 2006 when the gathering was held in Big Red Park, about an hour north of Steamboat Springs, which was estimated at the time to have brought about 20,000 people into the Routt National Forest.

Gamble, whose Rainbow name is Heartsong, played a video on the group’s history and another with interviews from the locals of towns near previous Rainbow Gatherings. After the videos, Gamble asked everyone to sit in a circle to discuss past experiences or ask questions about the gatherings. There were only six people in attendance, yet a diverse school of thought was present.

Denver resident Ken Johnson asked the presenters about an incident at a previous gathering that a friend of his had witnessed.

“There were guns, and it wasn’t as peaceful as he had hoped,” Johnson said. “When you got thousands of people, it just stands to reason not everybody’s going to be there for the same reason.”

Roses Rainbow, who attended the first Rainbow Gathering near Estes Park in 1972 when she was 11 years old, described an incident from a previous gathering, and said it may be the one Johnson mentioned. She remembered one year that a man in the camp was accused of pedophilia and the situation escalated to the point a gun was drawn. Rainbow says guns and alcohol aren’t allowed in the camps and along the road to the camps there’s typically a barrier of people filtering out those who appear to be coming in to commit violence. Rainbow said alcohol is consumed in that same area because it’s typically far enough away from the camps that they won’t be scolded, but according to her it can make the area rowdier, as it was in that area where the gun was drawn in her story.

A small group congregated at Bud Werner Memorial Library on Saturday, June 11, to discuss the Rainbow Family.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“This community is still trying to heal from COVID and everything else,” said Chris Forrest, a Steamboat resident. “What protection is provided to the community here with 50,000 people coming here, and even if we’re talking a couple hundred that are bad, we don’t have the capacity to deal with that.”

“I think there is the same percentage of people who might shoplift in the regular culture,” replied Rainbow.

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Gamble noted that the additional revenue brought in by the Rainbow Family’s presence might help offset the revenue lost to theft, but Forrest found that to be unreasonable.

“When you bring in double the population, we don’t have the infrastructure to support something like that,” said Forrest.

Angie Gamble, right, led a discussion at Bud Werner Memorial Library on Saturday, June 11, 2022, regarding the Rainbow Family, which may be hosting a gathering in or around Routt County this summer.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Rainbow said the gatherings set up what’s called the Center for Alternative Medicine, or CALM, to help with medical emergencies, even having a makeshift ambulance called the “vanbulance.”

Gamble said the last few gatherings have been smaller than usual and expects this year’s gathering to see between 20,000 and 30,000 people, but various speculations have been within a broad range of numbers. Routt County’s population is just over 25,000 people, according to 2020 census data.

“I heard one person said 80,000,” Gamble said. “I really doubt that personally.”

The gathering starts on July 1, and goes until July 7, culminating with a meditation and prayer for peace on July 4. Because of the size of the meditation and prayer, the group seeks areas with a meadow spacious enough for thousands of people. The group would also prefer to have fires, though they say it’s not a dealbreaker if they can’t because of restrictions.

The recent moisture in Routt County makes it an attractive location for the Rainbow Family, though conditions will likely change dramatically over the course of the summer.

Also attending the presentation at the library was Eric Jenkins, Candace Noriega and Roger Carolson, all Steamboat residents who were excited about the idea of the gathering coming near Steamboat Springs. Jenkins and Noriega both attended the last gathering in Routt County in 2006. Jenkins said he’s a certified chef with a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University and he hopes to help cook food at the upcoming gathering. Noriega hitchhikes a lot and said she hopes to catch a ride to the gathering if possible. Ultimately, the discussions at the library were amicable, despite some disagreements.

“Thank you for listening,” said Forrest. “I felt that you truly do believe in what you’re trying to emphasize and it’s sincere, and that’s beautiful.”

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