A year later, Rainbows' campsite hardly a pot of gold
May 30, 1991
by Pat Doyle
They flocked to the Superior National Forest to proclaim respect
for the environment and to live in harmony with nature.
Nearly a year after their celebration the U.S. Forest Service
wants organizers of the Rainbow Family festival to return - this time
to finish cleaning up their mess.
Communing with nature, it seems didn't come naturally to some
They tossed cigarette butts and plastic twist ties on the ground,
dumped glass bottles and metal spoons in compost pits, abandoned a
200-gallon water tank and left latrines uncovered, according to the Forest
Moreover, the ways ofthe north woods were mysterious to many
people from around the country who came to the 19th annual national Rainbow
festival, held last July north of Tofte.
So foreign was the northeastern Minnesota environment that some
campers neglected to hand food packs in trees. When black bears tore
through packs left on the ground, some Rainbows blew conch shells to alert
their companions. The bears didn't mind the sound.
"One bear got so many Snickers baars he wasn't going to be run
anything," said Larry Dawson, ranger for the Forest Service's
"These weren't north woods people who showed up there,"
Farber, a Rainbow Family member from New Hampshire. "They were
folks. You should see their jaws drop when they show up in a
These are people who say water comes out of a faucet and you
trash at the curb on Wednesday."
The festival was organized largely by Garrick Beck, a New Youk
resident who makes jewelry and teaches gardening. Beck, a
founder of the
Rainbows 20 years ago, said he's hung food packs during other
but believes that the large gathering at the festival made such
"I don't get the gist of this hanging-the-pack business," he
The condition of the forest remains an issue because festival
vowed last summer to leave the site as clean as they found it.
left without working out one detail, who does the cleaning.
"Everyone thought someone else was taking care of it," Beck said.
He promised this week that a crew of Rainbows would head up the
as early as this weekend to pick up remaining litter, bury
otherwise tidy up the 600-acre site near Barker Lake. "I will
come up to
Minnesota myself rather than go tho the next Rainbow if that
cleaned up," he said. This summer's festival is scheduled for
Mountains of Vermont.
Dawson is skeptical of assurances "They've been promising to come
said, "but htey've been promising to come back sonce Christmas."
members are "very apologetic about the whole thing, but apologies
cleaned it up."
As a result ofthe Minnesota experience, the Rainbow Family, which
describes as a "word-of-mouth, ad hoc operation," is for the
considering written guidelines for composting and other
family is a loose network of latter-day hippies, self-styled
conservationists and people who think crystals hold special
basic relationship is with the Earth," Beck said. "Our whole
effort is to
teach respect for the Earth."
However, he insists that the debris is no big deal considering
the size of
the crowd, estimated at 13,000 people over several weeks. The
most of its garbage away at the endofthe festival. As for the
remains, Beck blames Minnesota members of the Rainbow Family for
cleaning it up. "Those folks out in Minnesota, they really
loused up," he
But Dawson said Minnesotans who don't belong to the Rainbow
away the water tank and some pipes last fall. He said as many as
"compost' bins remain. "Every one I saw had nonbiodegradable
broken bottles, spoons, plastic sacks," he said. The bears also
mess by pawing around containers in the compost bins.
Moreover, there are open latrines, sacks of a power resembling
lime, a pile
of lumber and two 5-gallon buckets. He ssays the junk is obvious
walking a few yards into the area, designated for primitive
Elsewhere, twist ties and many plastic bags that weren't picked
fall remainburied under leaves. "It's just part of the
The Forest Service isn't the only one waiting for action. Jim
owner of a tiny convenience store in Schroeder, is trying to get
Rainbows to pay $415 for a store sign that was damaged by a bus
festivalgoers. He sent an estimaate of the damage to Beck. "The
wants is excessive," Beck said. "We don't like getting taken for
And a local hospital says the Rainbow Family owes it about $3,000
medical expenses it promised to cover, but Beck said the group
authorized the expenses.
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