Rainbow gathering peaks at 15,000 | SteamboatToday.com

Rainbow gathering peaks at 15,000

— Attendance at the Rainbow Family of Living Light gathering has topped off at about 15,000 people, according to U.S. Forest Service estimates.

After Tuesday’s mass–ive pray–er circle and “Interdepend–ence Day” celebration, gatherers are expected to start heading home. The weeklong gathering officially began Saturday.

“Today is definitely the peak,” Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Ottaviano said Tuesday.

Although attendance is difficult to gauge, Ottaviano said the Forest Service forms its estimates based on the number of cars parked alongside Forest Service roads.

She said that by the time cars arrive at the gathering, they are usually full. Officials also take into account large vans and buses that can haul more people to the gathering.

On Tuesday morning, Forest Service law enforcement officers made their presence known again. More than 10 uniformed officers walked around the main gathering areas inspecting fire pits and issuing citations.

Gatherers shouted, “Six up” to let others know law enforcement officials were in the area.

“Hide your weed,” one man shouted.

As of Monday, 541 citations had been issued, Ottaviano said. Most of those citations were for illegally occupying the Big Red Park, about 35 miles north of Steamboat Springs.

Forest Service officials have said the gathering is illegal because a permit is required for a gathering of more than 74 people. Gatherers initially refused to apply for the permit and were later denied a permit because of fire risk in the area.

More than 150 citations for drug-related incidents have been issued since the gathering began.

“Things have been relatively calm that past couple days,” Ottaviano said.

The risk of fire continues to be a concern, but Ottaviano said officials are pleased with the way gatherers are policing themselves about campfires.

“Compared to what you would normally see, it’s a huge difference,” she said. “They have been cooperative in that respect.”

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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