1991 Vermont Gathering Report


11. KIDDIE VILLAGE - Kiddie Village was located in the heart of the gathering, symbolizing that children are central to the Family's survival and continuance, the Family surrounding and protecting them. It was a place specially created with children in mind. It was located just north of main meadow during the 1991 gathering.

Families with children set up camp here. Parents built hand made playground equipment, constructed a sandbox, swimming hole and a story circle. Parents and other adults took turns watching the camp children so all might have a chance to enjoy other gathering activities. The village's kitchen served meals catering to the likes of kids and their parents, and special care was taken to ensure that proper sanitary procedures were followed.

12. PETS - Rainbow literature discourages people from bringing animals to the gathering because of health and safety concerns. However, there were animals at the Vermont gathering. Pets came in all forms: hundreds of dogs of all breeds and mixes, sizes and age; cats and new born litters of kittens; monkeys; ferrets; parrots; and one pet chicken were observed. Most animals were untethered and unattended to. Although the majority seemed to be well cared for, it can be assumed that some were without shots and were. therefore, a threat to the well being of gathering attendees.

Many Rainbows openly expressed their disdain for the free roaming animals. By mid week, when gathering attendance peaked, dogs were literally everywhere. Most were well behaved and simply roamed around playing and occasionally looking for handouts. But animal feces indiscriminately deposited about the gathering became an annoyance as well as a health issue.

There were two reported incidents of animals biting people. A child was bitten by a mixed breed dog July 5th morning. The child was treated at C.A.L.M. The dog, initially suspected of being rabid because of a frothing mouth. The dog's owner was initially unknown and Rainbow Family members brought the dog to the ICP. A Granville town constable took the animal to a local veterinarian. After observations, the dog was released to its owner. Later that afternoon there was a report of a man being attacked and repeatedly bitten by a pit bull and a pit bull cross Rottweiler. The victim was taken to Middlebury for treatment. No further information is available.

12. BARTER AREA - The gathering had its own business district where people displayed their wares in hopes of exchanging them for something of equal value. There was a variety of goods: hand-crafted jewelry, beadwork and clothing (especially tie-dyed items); hand worked wooden bowls and leather hats, belts and wallets; rocks, minerals and crystals; knives; incense and other items. But money wouldn't buy you much. The method of trade at the gathering was barter, and the favored currencies were tobacco, crystals and candy bars. However, one could attempt to barter with whatever they had available to them. One vendor's sign read "Anything for food."


The Rainbow Family has money which it uses to pay for whatever is needed at the gathering: food, water. supplies, medical needs, bail for Family members, restoration materials, etc. Funds are apparently donated by Family members and other supporters. The money is kept in the Family "bank" which arrived at the Vermont site shortly after the seed camp was established. if any urgent need arises during the gathering the Family can raise money quickly by passing the "magic hat".


The Family usually prepays or pays for food and supplies upon pick-up or delivery. This is the system they used during the Igql gathering. They also claim to pay for any medical bills which individual Family members can not pay for. There were no known unpaid bills following the gathering in Vermont .

Unfortunately, there were a few incidents of shoplifting, and drive-offs and walk-aways at gas stations and restaurants. The Family told local businesses that it would repay the value of merchandise stolen or services rendered without payment if a claim was made. They did this in one known situation. In most instances, however, local businesses reported problems to the Forest Service, but decided against making a claim to the Rainbow Family, not wanting to "stir up trouble"



A primary management objective for the 1991 Rainbow Gathering was to ensure the health and safety of all those affected by the gathering: attendees. local residents, other national forest users and agency employees. Although on-site provisions for health, safety and sanitation were the Rainbow Family's responsibility, the Forest Service and the Vermont Department of Health were diligent in providing technical assistance and monitoring the gathering to ensure that minimum standards were met. The Forest Service prepared a Safety Plan for the event which provided guidelines for daily operations as well as emergency contingency plans.

HEALTH ISSUES - There were no serious health problems at the 1991 Rainbow Gathering. With the exception of minor cases of diarrhea no known water or food-borne illnesses were reported. In mid-June Rainbows reported a woman with hepatitis, believed to be type C, to officials. A subsequent blood test confirmed it to be Type C. In late June, Rainbow C.A.L.M. volunteers reported an outbreak of head lice. Approximately 12-15 gatherers were involved. Some were treated with a Lindaine rinse. Others preferred a pine pitch treatment, most Of which later received head shavings. A few refused any treatment based on personal objections to killing living things. The outbreak was eventually controlled with no further known episodes.

WATER - Providing an adequate supply of drinking and cooking water was a major problem at the 1991 gathering. Rainbow water scouts planned to develop natural springs at elevations above the gathering site and pipe water from these sources into the gathering. However. due to dryer than normal conditions, water flows were very low. Agency officials encouraged the Family to consider purchasing water and trucking it in, but Family members were determined to find acceptable on-site solutions. They finally settled on a surface water brook as the main water supply. The family slowly laid pipe into the gathering site. It was June 36 before water actually flowed through the system. During the gathering- there was little rainfall, and water flows remained low. However, the developed system actually provided a sufficient water supply for most of the gathering site. A secondary water system served the Lovin Ovens/Taco Mike's/ Popcorn Palace/ Donut Factory complex, and helped reduce demand on the main system.

Water quality was also a constant concern for the Rainbow Family. Health Department officials repeatedly advised Family members that all natural waters should be considered contaminated and boiled or chlorinated before we. However, Family members persistently asked officials to test their


water supplies, insisting that the crystal clear waters in the area must be pure. Health officials tested the water for bacteria early on. The results confirmed that it was contaminated. Agency officials remained firm in their advice to treat all water. Gatherers heeded this advice and no water-borne illnesses were reported.

In mid-June local residents voiced concerns about the impacts the large Rainbow crowd might have on the area's rivers and streams. In response, the Forest Service and Vermont Health Department monitored the fecal coliform levels in the White River at several points downstream from the gathering. The first site was located .2 mile north of "A" Camp on FR 55. Three other sample points were located on Route 100 in Oranville, Hancock and Rochester. A control point was also monitored in Binge Brook along FR 46. Water samples were taken each week day, except July 4, between June 25 and July 15.

Monitoring results indicated that fecal coliform levels remained below the Vermont Department of Health's safety standard for recreational water use until July 5 when all sample sites. including the control, rose sharply; At that time all sites, except the control, exceeded the safety standard. Although it can be assumed that increased human activity at the gathering played a role in the bacteria's rise, the dramatic increase at the control site indicated that other natural factors were also responsible. Until July 5 the weather had been very dry and resident fecal coliform in the river - would have been concentrated. Heavy rains fell on July 5 morning which churned up this heavy concentration of bacteria. Following the rains, : increased drainage from nearby pastures would have also added more fecal matter into the rivers.

Results for the July 5 sampling were reported to the Forest Service on July 6 evening. The following morning the Forest Service posted the White River from the gathering site to the town of Stockbridge with "No Swimming - Water Is Contaminated" signs. The Forest Service and Department of Health officials advised the Rainbow Family, local town health officials and the media of the situation. The agencies continued monitoring the river through July 16 when test results indicated that fecal coliform had returned to safe levels.

LATRINES - The Forest Service draft operating plan outlined construction standards for the pit latrines used at the gathering. Forest Service and Health Department officials monitored the Family's progress and compliance with the standards. Health officials asked the Family to construct 70-75 latrines, based on need estimates of one latrine per 200 people. Progress towards this goal was slow. In the last week of June the Family had constructed only five or six latrines. By July 2, however, there were 138 well-constructed latrines scattered throughout the gathering.

Latrines were located at least 200 feet from any water and kitchens. They were slit trenches dug at least 3 feet deep, covered with plywood and Sealed at the edges with dirt. Buckets of lime or wood ash were located at each site, to be added to the trench after each use. A hand washing statioNwas provided at each latrine. When latrines filled to within 15 inches of the ground surface they were filled in with soil and closed to further use.

While conducting inspections during site clean-up and rehabilitation, Forest Service officials found a large amount of human waste scattered throughout the woods. It was especially pervasive in the "A" Camp area. Even the Rainbow clean-up crew was alarmed by the degree of latrine non-use.


GARBAGE AND TRASH - The Rainbow Family sorted all garbage generated on site. Biodegradable materials were composted St. kitchen sites. Recyclable materials were sorted at kitchen areas and camps and later transported and stored at the main recycling center on FR 55. Other trash was stored in large garbage bags, boxes or in open heaps. garbage and trash thus stored accumulated during the gathering. Most was not removed until after the gathering was over.

Beginning the week of July 8, clean up crews consolidated all garbage and trash from the gathering site along FR 55. They sorted through these piles separating out recyclable materials. The Family made all the necessary arrangements for hauling the trash to local recycling centers and landfills.


Sixteen thousand people traveled to Vermont's White River valley to attend the 1991 Rainbow Gathering between June 29 and July 7. The impact of their visit was felt in the communities of Granville, Hancock, Rochester and throughout the state. For the most part, the social impacts of the gathering were temporary in nature, lasting only as long as the Rainbows stayed in the area. Some impacts were very intense and stress inducing. But the gathering caused no serious, long lasting or permanent effects within the communities or the state. There were no life threatening incidents, no personal injuries, no property damage and no perceivable changes in the area's social structure or values. The memories left behind may prove to be the one long lasting impact. But these didn't really change the fabric of people's lives, they simply added to the texture a little.

LOCAL COMMUNITIES - The towns of Granville, Bancock and Rochester (populations 400, 300 and 500 respectively) were the most heavily impacted by the gathering. The thought alone of 16,000 people descending on their tranquil communities caused anxiety in some. They were concerned about crime, substance abuse, nudity, disrupted peace and quiet, and whether Rainbow gatherers would interfere with town festivities on July 4. In reality, most of these concerns never materialized into real problems.

Rainbow gatherers coming and going from the event caused traffic congestion along State routes 100 and 125, especially between July 2 and 7. During the gathering there was a steady flow of pedestrian traffic along Route 100. including many hitch hikers on their way to local towns to use phones and purchase food, supplies or restaurant meals. The congestion was a nuisance and safety concern, but no accidents or injuries occurred.

Some local citizens were irritated by the increased law enforcement presence on the State highways and in towns. Some felt it was an unnecessary show of authority that turned their community into a police state for a week. Others expressed gratitude for the presence. stating they felt it helped to keep peace and order in the area and deterred potential criminal activity.

In general, most local businesses experience unprecedented sales as a direct result of the gathering. Gathering attendees purchased food, beer. tobacco products, socks, camping supplies, personal hygiene products, etc. Gas stations also did good business. Restaurants and cafes were often packed with customers. Such crowds were an unfamiliar sight to many local citizens. They were also unaccustomed to having to wait in line to buy a loaf of bread.


Many businesses were bothered by gathering attendees who entered their premises only to use the rest rooms. Often they came in groups and tied up facilities for a half hour or longer. Some took baths and washed clothes in rest room sinks. Store and restaurant owners found it necessary to clean their facilities several times daily. Local bed & breakfasts and inns were approached by Rainbow gatherers seeking public rest rooms. showers, a few hours rest or a night's accommodations. Owners were concerned with the possibility of non-payment, the cleanliness (or lack of it) of these customers and the effect the Rainbows would have on their regular clientele. For the cost part, requesting full payment in advance of services sent most Rainbows on their way.

The Oranville post office became flooded with general delivery mail during the gathering. The local post mistress had not been warned about the gathering and was inadequately prepared to deal with it. The situation caused her a great deal of personal stress and resulted in ill feelings toward the Rainbow Family.

There were a few confrontations between local residents and gathering attendees in town. Most often these stemmed from Rainbow members loitering on private property. Groups would sit on lawns talking boisterously. sometimes late at night. Alcohol and marijuana use was observed. Usually the gatherers would leave the property when landowners insisted. Occasionally law enforcement officers or Rainbow Shanti Sena were called to assist. Some local citizens were dismayed at a display of public nudity when Rainbow Family members removed all their clothing to complete their laundry at a local Laundromat. These were isolated incidents which resulted in no further problems.

In general, the Rainbow Family did not participate in activities outside the gathering. Several hundred attended a peace rally sponsored by the Abenaki and Cree Indian tribes at the Statehouse on July 6. Others ventured out on June 29 to enjoy a Reggae festival in Burlington, VT and the Ben and Jerry's ice cream picnic in Waterbury, VT. However, there was no noticeable Rainbow presence at any local July 4 celebrations.

Although the gathering brought an economic boost to local businesses in the White River valley, most expressed relief when the week came to an end and the hoards of people started to leave. it meant their quiet existence would soon get back to normal.

STATE AGENCIES - Several Vermont state agencies were impacted by the 1991 gathering. The Department of Health and the Vermont State Police were directly and significantly involved as reviewed in earlier sections of this report. Other agencies included the departments of Social Welfare, Corrections and Social and Rehabilitation Services. Appendix H contains final reports from these agencies.

The various state agencies had differing levels of involvement with the Rainbow event and were impacted to different degrees. Whatever the impacts, great or small, it is important to note that the cumulative participation of these Vermont agencies cost the state government both time and money. This unplanned and unexpected event added stress to already pared down staffs and budgets. Other important projects were put on the back burner so that employees could devote the necessary time to the gathering. The financial costs to government agencies were without reimbursement from the Rainbow Family and, therefore, were costs passed on to the taxpayer.


FOREST SERVICE - Administering the 1991 Rainbow Gathering had a significant time and financial impact on the Rochester Ranger District and the Green Mountain National Forest. It demanded the district ranger's and the recreational assistant ranger's full attention for approximately two months. Other district employees were involved on a part time basis. In addition, four SO employees were committed to the event full time (administrative officer, public affairs officer, soil scientist and safety coordinator) with several others involved on a consulting basis. The time spent on the gathering seriously affected the district's ability to accomplish other planned work programs to customary standards.

The Green Mountain National Forest expended an estimated $301,100. to administer the 1991 Rainbow Gathering. The gathering was not part of the Forest's 1991 program of work. No financing was planned for the event. The costs were covered out of other project funds; money that is no longer available for regularly scheduled projects and programs. None of these costs, nor the costs of other state and federal agencies were reimbursed by the Rainbow Family. The costs will be passed on to the taxpayer.


The Forest Service operating plan outlined measures to be taken to safeguard natural and significant historic resources within the gathering area. Forest Service personnel inspected conditions within the gathering daily to assure these measures were followed, and to monitor the gathering's impact on the environment. Despite careful planning and monitoring, some resource damage did occur. All the observed damage resulted from the impact of the large numbers of people using the area. There was no known intentional or malicious resource damage done.

Soil compaction occurred where ever human use was concentrated: main meadow, kitchens, camps and heavily used trails. Vegetation and duff layers in these areas were worn away. Other new trails (made during the gathering), especially those on steep, dry slopes, showed varying amounts of erosion. Soils were dug up, sloughed downhill, leaving tree roots exposed. Gatherers also made trails down to the White River and Clark and Patterson brooks; often on very steep slopes. Eroding soils from these trails threatened the stability and integrity of streambanks and water quality.

In several places trails crossed historic rock walls. Heavy pedestrian traffic over the walls caused them to crumble and flatten One cellar hole. located on the trail from front gate to main meadow, was damaged, probably by someone looking for artifacts. There were no other observed damages to cultural resources.

Forest Road 55 received continual and heavy two-way vehicular traffic. Frequently, meeting vehicles would have to move to the outermost edges of the road to squeeze by one another. The road surfacing eventually sloughed off, filling ditch lines, and culvert ends became crushed Portions of Texas Meadows were badly rutted from constant vehicle use on wet soils.

There was some illegal trespassing onto private property(on the west end of the gathering site. Gatherers frequented a waterfall looted on private land along the White River with the landowners' permission, however. the landowners did not want any camping there. Forest Service personnel had to constantly ask campers to move to public land. Despite concerns, there was no damage to private property. There was very little cutting of live trees within the gathering. There was no illegal cutting of timber



The operating plan and a Forest Service-prepared rehabilitation plan outlined agency expectations of the Rainbow Family in terms of clean up and site rehabilitation. The rehab plan (Appendix I) also identified areas needing immediate attention to help the Family prioritize their work. In addition, the plans established August 12, 1991 as the latest acceptable date for the work to be completed. Although the Family never condensed to the plans, there was an informal understanding that this goal would be met.

Beginning July 8, a core group of about 300 Family members began the clean up operations. They dealt with the piles of garbage; dismantled camp and kitchen structures and disposed of all construction materials; cleaned out and filled in fire pits; and filled in and covered over latrines and compost pits. They rebuilt rock walls; installed required water bars; and aerated, seeded and mulched compacted and/or eroding soils.

Crew members worked diligently. One Rainbow Family member assumed a leadership role and helped others stay focused and motivated. The Family was also motivated to succeed in its clean up responsibilities this year to improve a tarnished reputation which resulted from media reports of incomplete and unacceptable work following the 1990 Minnesota gathering.

The Forest Service worked closely with the clean up crew, visiting the site daily. They inspected the work on an incremental basis. As specific areas of the gathering site were cleaned up and rehabbed, Forest Service officials approved the work and relieved the Family of any further responsibility for that particular area. Slowly, sections of the site were "checked off". On August 5, district personnel conducted a final inspection of the gathering site. They found that the Rainbow Family had accomplished all clean up and site rehabilitation work that was expected of them. The final phase of the 1991 Rainbow Gathering was declared complete.


FS Regs Page | PCU Administrative Record
Rainbow in Court | Government Views | Public Views
1601 Pennsylvania Avenue