Jay Kay wrote:
Thanks, y'all... funny that this would be the thread that got me to register. There is enough disinformation about Rainbow Gatherings in the corporate media that I can't bear to see it regurgitated here.
So imagine, you are in the woods, maybe 20-50 miles from the nearest cell tower, with 10-20 thousand other folks, its a couple hours after sunset, the stars are out, you are walking along a trail and stumble on a campfire where they are making popcorn in a giant wok 4 feet in diameter... someone fills your cup up with freshly popped kernels, you munch a little, taking in the scene, and continue walking... you hear a rumble ahead, which turns out to be 50 drummers and 200 dancers around the next fire, and they are "crushing it"! A little further down the trail you run into a camp with five 50-gallon barrels turned into wood-burning ovens... turns out you missed the brownies, but they have freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! A little more down the trail is another fire where someone is playing acoustic guitar & singing songs for 5 or 6 other folks... you sit down to listen for a song or two, and next thing you know, out of the darkness other musicians show up and join in... and the 5 or 6 listeners have turned in to a crowd of folks dancing and singing along...
...then, on the morning of July 4th, you wake up to the entire camp observing a silent vigil. You make your way, along with the majority of the other campers, to the "main meadow" where, still in silence, folks are sunbathing, meditating, reading, and gradually forming a hand-holding circle around the meadow 1/4 mi or more in diameter. Around noon. a parade of children, colorful floats, hippie clowns, stiltwakers, etc approaches from "kid village" and the circle begins to "Om" together... the parade reaches the totem pole at the center of the meadow, everyone breaks into a joyful shout, the drums begin thundering, and hundreds of watermelons are chopped and handed out... you look up, there's a rainbow around the sun, and you know you have just seen one of the most amazing annual events in North America, if not the world...
My first gathering was the national in Minnesota in 1990 (there are smaller regional events throughout the year, but the national event is always July 1-7, with setup starting a couple of weeks before, and cleanup running for a couple of weeks after.) I heard about it at the big Earth Day 20th anniversary celebration in Chicago that year, opted to arrive a week early, and spent my 21st birthday out in the woods with craziest melding of hippies, punk rockers, homeless Vietnam vets, new-age healers, straight rural tourists, Deadheads, pagans, radical "fairies", Jesus freaks, yoga freaks, Hare Krishnas, whole-earth-catalog-back-to-the-landers, commune members, alternative medicine practitioners, and just plain groovy folks that I have ever encountered. Attendance in Minnesota was estimated at 15,000, but its been as high as 50,000 (20th anniversary, Colorado '92.) Since my first gathering I have been to Colorado '92, Wyoming '94, New Mexico '95, Missouri '96, Oregon '97, Arizona '98, Pennsylvania '99, Montana 2000, Michigan '02, West Virginia '05, and Wyoming '08. I've also been to a handful of regionals and one Fire Tribe event (ForestDance in Mass, '09). As you can imagine, its a big part of my life.
Rainbow Gatherings are non-commercial events, and there is no admission charge. The site is always in a National Forest, which it turns out is the only place that our "right to peaceably assemble" is still in effect, just about everywhere else being technically private property. It works entirely on volunteerism and donations. Donations are taken centrally in the "magic hat" and funds are distributed by consensus committee. Typically volunteer activities are gathering firewood, hauling water, and digging shitters. There are very few "rules:" 1) Keep a cup and spoon with you at all times (food is free at kitchens, but plates/utensils are rare,) 2) cover your shit with dirt, preferably in a designated slit-trench latrine, 3) no guns/firearms, and 4) no alcohol. Food at kitchens is generally vegetarian, because its much easier to keep from spoiling without refrigeration than meat. Electricity and amplified music are frowned upon, with flashlights and lanterns tolerated. These agreements are fairly well-observed in the "main gathering site," in my experience, but there some areas outside the official site that make their own rules: "A-camp" is where alcohol is tolerated, its almost always in one of the parking lots and the unofficial agreement is that they do parking lot security, and "Bus Village," which is exactly what it sounds like, and is more like Burning Man, with generators, all-night raves, etc.
The cleanup after these events is very thorough, down to reseeding trails with local plants/wildflowers. There are multiple forest service publications documenting the benefits to a forest after hosting a gathering, especially the clearing of the downed wood and underbrush that are forest fire hazards. Local towns are mixed in their response, depending on the general level of xenophobia, but by and large they get that increased sales far, far outweigh the losses from shoplifting. There has also been a bit of a long-standing feud between Rainbows and Deadheads, with Deadheads regarding gatherings as forced work camps, and Rainbows regarding Deadheads as lazy "drainbows" that show up for the free food and contribute nothing but empty beer cans and bottles. And despite my glowing account above, there are also boring rainy days, days where everytime you get to kitchen they are between meals, days with the "rainbow runs" from drinking unfiltered water, annoying egos, loud verbal conflicts, petty thievery, L.E.O.'s throwing their weight around, and the other generally human behaviors on the "shadow side" of the coin.
Anyway, looks like I might get to go this year, something that has been a rarity since started touring as a musician, and I am pretty excited about that!
I'm humbled that you registered to reply to my thread. It can't be shared any better than what you just said. My wife and I met you briefly in MD at the 8x10 and you seemed shocked that we told you we drove all the way from RI to see JKB AND brought the kids ( who were babysat at the hotel). Like my wife said to you- you truely are "one of us". Family. Always have been, always will be. Call the "family" what you want, it includes us all.
It touches my heart that you took the time to offer such an eloquent and heartfelt reply. Your heart shines. One way or another, this darkness has got to give. I think alot more people are waiting to hear from you than you might believe, brother.
In true Rainbow style... "We Loooooooooooooooooove Youuuuuuuuuu!"