KSL TV, June 19, 2003
John Hollenhorst Reporting
A mass movement, towards Utah has begun.
The so-called Rainbow Family, up to 20-thousand strong, is heading for its annual gathering, this year, in Utah’s Uinta Mountains.
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Rainbow hitchhikers are already en route to Utah for an event that sounds completely benign.
Rainbow Hitchhiker: “Family reunion, family get-together. That’s all.”
Rainbow Hitchhiker: “The point of the rainbow gathering is to pray for world peace.”
Two years ago, the event was held in Central Idaho. Twenty thousand distinctly counter-cultural people suddenly showed up in the middle of the Boise National Forest and U.S. Forest Rangers feared the worst.
Walt Rogers/Boise National Forest: “If we allow them and everybody else to come out here and do whatever they want, this pristine meadow won’t be pristine any longer.”
The dilemma for law enforcement is, if you try to stop 20-thousand people that are coming to the great outdoors, it will simply scatter them into other communities where they could cause even more trouble.
Government agencies decided they had to live with it, so they mounted a massive effort to minimize the consequences. Dozens of federal state and county officials were coordinated by a special federal team created years ago exclusively to handle the Rainbows.
Mounted police patrols maintained order and, to a limited extent, enforced drug and alcohol laws. Health teams monitored the huge communal camp kitchens that fed the Rainbows. Medical teams stood by for emergencies. A massive parking lot was managed for the least damage possible. Vital habitat for steelhead salmon was marked off and protected.
Walt Rogers: “Once we got the area flagged and we educated them and the reasons why, they complied with that fairly well.”
There was considerable damage to the landscape. But now, two years later, Nature has repaired most of it, except for scars from hundreds of fire pits and latrine trenches.
Walt Rogers: “It will take several years for the sod to get back into those areas.”
As with any city of 20-thousand, the story involves life, death and taxes. One woman died of a heart attack. One baby was born. And the federal government alone spent 700,000 dollars in tax money.