Rainbows Get Cozy

Albuquerque Journal
Published: 07-03-95
Edition: Final
Page: A1

Colorful Crowd Now 8,000-Strong

Byline: Andrew Stiny For the Journal The Associated Press contributed to this report.

TRES PIEDRAS -- There's nothing typical about them, people attending a Rainbow Family of Living Light gathering like to say. Sid Fogel could be the proof.

Fogel, of Boulder, Colo., may seem an unlikely visitor to this annual gathering, billed as a communion with nature and peace meditation.

Taking place this year in the Carson National Forest, the gathering started Saturday and runs through Friday.

With the exception of a sprinkling of aging baby boomers, the crowd is young.

Fogel, by his own admission is, well, older. He's 64.

Rainbows arrive in all types of vehicles with plenty of VW and old converted school buses parked at "Bus Village." Fogel said he parked his motor home on more level ground so that the refrigerator would work properly.

Why is Fogel, a retired radiologist and sex therapist attending an event he just heard about last week? "I'm not sure," he said. "To meet some unsual people perhaps."

Original estimates that 30,000 people might attend the event at its height have been downgraded by the U.S. Forest Service to between 12,000 and 15,000. About 8,000 people were at the site Sunday, Forest Service personnel said.

The Rainbow Family held its first annual gathering in 1972 in Granby, Colo., and has met in various national forests around the country every year since.

Fogel said he heard about the Rainbow gathering while attending a Boulder meeting held by an American woman named, "Gangaji," a practitioner of East Indian spiritualism.

"Being out here gives you a chance to look at things in their 'isness' and see God," Fogel said. "I have no idea what (the gathering) is all about. I probably wouldn't have done this a couple of years ago, because of all these weird hippies , but other people are windows through which you see God."

That feeling, however, is not shared by some northern New Mexicans who call the rugged forests home and consider the Rainbows uninvited guests.

"It's (an) invasion, it is not a gathering," complained Antonio "Ike" DeVargas, a longtime community activist from nearby Vallecitos.

The Forest Service has said that federal court decisions allow events like the Rainbow gathering and permits cannot be required.

There has also been dissension at the gathering between two different camps that Rainbowers sometimes referred to as A Camp and C Camp.

A Camp (for alcohol) is where some Vietnam veterans stay and where alcohol is allowed, various Rainbow participants said. C Camp (or the main camp) is supposed to be drug- and alcohol-free.

Part of the problem may be competition between the groups that had been "leapfrogging" in front of each other to greet newcomers and solicit money, the Forest Service said.

There have been reports "that there were some folks associated with A Camp that were requesting contributions," said Gary Schiff, a Forest Service deputy incident commander. This has been a concern of the Forest Service and the Rainbow Family's informal leaders, Schiff said, adding that no one would be allowed to impede traffic on the main road through the area, Forest Road 87.

Some complain that the Rainbows have been clogging nearby towns and taxing services. In Taos, to the southeast of Tres Piedras, there were complaints of shoplifting, panhandling and trespassing.

The Forest Service called in 40 extra law enforcement officers and 15 support workers, said Schiff. He estimated Sunday that the cost to taxpayers, including providing medical services, could be as high as $1 million.

Hospitals in five nearby cities in New Mexico and southern Colorado are on alert, along with local and National Guard air ambulances, and the state's disaster medical assistance team is on the scene, said Rita Campbell, chief executive officer of Holy Cross Hospital in Taos.

The vision of the Rainbow Family first given in 1972 is to " call on the forces of love to bring peace in the hearts of all people around the world so that the golden rule will be the reality of our lives on earth," a recent news release from member John McCall said.