Thousands Prepare for Rainbow Family Gathering

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: June 30, 2019 10:28 PM

The much talked about Rainbow Family Gathering starts Monday. That's where people from all over the country camp together in a national forest all week long for a celebration of peace and unity. This year's event is taking place in Wisconsin.


The Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest is flooded with cars for the annual rainbow gathering. This is where thousands of people across the country will be camping for the week to participate in social and spiritual activities.

The gathering is near Canthook Lake on the Washburn Ranger District, just outside the community of Delta in Bayfield County.

“It's people from all backgrounds, all parts of the country, all parts of the world. Everyone comes together, everyone puts their differences aside and we all celebrate peace,” Holly Dugal, a rainbow gathering attendee, said.

The Rainbow family is described as a loose-knit group of people from across the country.

"There’s a drum circle and music playing. If you walk around it’s like one big camp site, everyone is cooking food,” John Forseth, a rainbow gathering attendee, said. It's his first time at the gathering. 

Rainbow gathering attendees said the event was started in 1972 by Vietnam war veterans looking for peace, and because of that, the main part of the gathering is known as the prayer for peace.

"We come together and do a universal kind of prayer for our freedom and honor and thank those who have given their lives for freedom,” Judith Island, a longtime rainbow gathering attendee, said.

Attendees were excited as they made their way to the campsite.

"When you come in you get to see the building process and everyone coming in, people bringing in resources and skills,” Island said.

"You make a lot of close friends when you camp out with people. You get really close with them,” Mitra Dasa, a longtime rainbow gathering attendee, said.

As of now there’s around 2,600 people at the forest and that number is expected to grow.

A permit is required for gatherings of over 75 people in national forests but since the gathering isn't an official event put on by an organization, attendees refused to sign a permit.

"In lieu of that permit, we have a rescuer order protection plan to work with them and to try and protect resources," Hilary Markin, the public affairs officer for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, said.

With so many people in one location, the U.S. Forest Service and authorities are working with the rainbow family to ensure safety and protection of resources.

“They leave a cleanup crew to work on restoring the land that’s been disturbed in there. We will be working with them to ensure it gets back to what it was beforehand as much as possible,” Markin said

Local towns and cities close to the forest like Iron River and Delta have seen in influx in business due to thousands of people making their way to the gathering.

Locals expressed concerns about the gathering at a recent meeting, but authorities and the U.S. Forest Service assured them they will be on hand to make sure everyone is safe.

"They appreciate us being on ground working with the community they appreciate the law enforcement presence in the community,” Markin said.

The gathering kicks off Monday and goes through July 7.


Alejandra Palacios

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