Rainbow Family

A counter-culture group known for their annual Rainbow Gatherings, advocating peace, love, and harmony, yet facing controversies and environmental concerns.

The Rainbow Family of Living Light, commonly known as the Rainbow Family, is a counter-culture group that has been in existence since approximately 1970. The group is known for its annual Rainbow Gatherings, which are primitive camping events held on public land.

Origins and Principles

The Rainbow Family was heavily inspired by the 1969 Woodstock Festival and the anti-war, pro-love movements of the 1960s. It was started by Barry Plunker and Garrick Beck in the early 1970s after they attended the Vortex I music festival in Portland, Oregon. Their vision was to create a large, coordinated, nonpolitical, nondenominational group of like-minded individuals. The group does not have formal leaders or a structured organization.

Rainbow Gatherings

The first official Rainbow Gathering was held in Granby, Colorado, in 1972. These gatherings are meant to be peaceful events focusing on music, dancing, and love, with participants engaging in activities such as workshops, meditation, yoga, and drum circles. However, they have often been met with controversies, including criticism for not properly cleaning up after events and leaving detrimental impacts on the environment.

Controversies and Criticism

Over the years, the Rainbow Family has faced various criticisms and controversies. Incidents at their gatherings have included outbreaks of diseases due to poor hygiene, environmental damage due to the large number of attendees, and occasional violent incidents. For instance, an outbreak of shigellosis occurred at the 1987 gathering, and there have been reports of violent incidents in later years. The group has also been criticized for cultural appropriation and clashes with local residents.

Law Enforcement and Environmental Impact

The Rainbow Family’s gatherings, often attended by thousands, have drawn the attention of law enforcement and environmental agencies. The U.S. Forest Service has sometimes criticized the group’s cleanup efforts as insufficient, while some local officials have praised their efforts. The Rainbow Family has consistently refused to comply with the Forest Service’s permit process for large group gatherings on national forest lands.

Current Status

Despite the controversies, the Rainbow Family continues to hold its annual gatherings, which attract a diverse group of individuals. These events are seen as opportunities for communal living and sharing in a spirit of peace and harmony. However, the group’s approach to organization and their impact on local environments and communities continue to be subjects of debate and concern.