Frequently Asked Questions
Incident: National Rainbow Family Gathering Law Enforcement
US Forest Service - Cherokee National Forest Service
2012 National Rainbow Family of Living Light GatheringJune 27, 2012
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1) What is the Rainbow Family of Living Light
The Rainbow Family is a loose-knit group of people who are into alternative lifestyles. They gather on National Forests to discuss political and environmental issues, pray for world peace, and celebrate life. They describe themselves as having no leaders and no organization.
2) Who can be a Rainbow
Anyone who wants to be. They come from all walks of life and from a variety of backgrounds. One website states that anyone with a bellybutton can be a Rainbow.
3) What is the National Gathering
The Rainbow Family holds a national gathering once a year. Since 1972, the event has taken place on a different National Forest during the Fourth of July holiday and has fluctuated in size. The largest gatherings attract more than 25,000 people. However, recent National Gatherings have attracted approximately 10,000. Smaller local and regional gatherings occur during other times of the year.
4) How does the Rainbow Family decide where to gather
At the end of each annual gathering, members form a "vision council" to discuss the location of the following year's event. At the 2011 gathering, they agreed to come to the Eastern National Forests in 2012. At the recent spring council the group chose to gather in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.
5) How and when is the specific site selected
During the spring and early summer, Rainbow scouts research and visit areas to find a suitable location - according to their standards. Scouts may visit local Forest Service offices requesting information and maps. Sometime around June 10-15, the "spring council" occurs, often at the location of the annual gathering. The specific location and time typically is not revealed to the Forest Service until it happens.
6) When does the National Gathering begin
Within one week of the "spring council," about 1,000-2,000 attendees arrive on site. There will be a continual build-up of Rainbows reaching 10,000+ people by July 4th. Once the site is determined, the Rainbow Family uses the Internet and informational recordings to let Rainbow Family members know the location and directions to the site.
7) When does the gathering end
The event peaks on July 4th. After that, there is a drastic reduction in attendance. However, a group of Rainbows stay to clean up and rehabilitate the site. Other "stragglers" may remain for a couple weeks.
8) How do 10,000+ people live in the woods
As soon as Rainbow Family members select a site, they set up a welcome tent, camping and social areas, parking and shuttle areas, health care areas and several "kitchens." They develop water sources, and dig trench latrines. There is no fee for attendance, but they collect donations for food and other necessary items for distribution. They designate special areas for group gatherings, families w/children, men, women and party goers areas to name a few. Attendees are advised to bring their own camping gear. Family members use campfires exclusively to cook on.
9) How does the Forest Service manage this event
The Forest Service formed a National Incident Management Team (NIMT) in 1997 to cover Rainbow Family national gatherings. The objectives of the 2012 NIMT are:
- Address health and safety risks to the public and participants
- Minimize environmental impacts with Law Enforcement presence and action
- Recognize and mitigate social and political impacts
- Respect civil rights of all public
- Locate a suitable site for gatherings before they occur.
- Utilize unified command. The NIMT is working in partnership with state, county, and local law enforcement, health, and other organizations. Informational meetings involving the NIMT, the Forest Service, Federal, State and local agencies and entities will occur as needed.
10) How large is the Rainbow Gathering
The Rainbow Family gathering is currently spread across approximately 1850 acres concentrated along Flatwoods Road. The entire area is open to the public. We encourage visitors to use Highway 421 to access the area because Flatwoods Road is congested with vehicles and people.
11) Is the area around the gathering still open
The entire Watauga Ranger District and area in and around the gathering is open to the public, including Little Oak Campground and Jacob's Creek Recreation Area. We encourage visitors to use Highway 421 to access the area because Flatwoods Road, as well as Forest Service Roads 87 and 87A are congested with vehicles and people. Federal law enforcement officers and cooperating agencies are working around the clock to keep the area safe and accessible.