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All Colors of Spectrum Will Be at Rainbow Mellowfest

June 30, 1990

BARKER LAKE, Minn. (AP) _ Whatever your bag, you’ll be welcomed to this far-out enclave the Rainbow family will call home next week. But please, curb your dogma.

Thousands of people are descending on campsites in the Superior National Forest for the 19th annual Rainbow Gathering, a weeklong mellowfest that officially begins Sunday.

Doctors and drifters alike, bearded or beaded, will shed their worldly trappings and get back to basics.

″We try to speak gently to each other,″ said one, who would give only his Rainbow name: Felipe Rainbow.

The Rainbow Family is a loosely knit group of people and movements woven into what its members call a tribal gathering. They travel to a different national forest each year to share their knowledge, material goods and a desire for peace.

Some stay the entire summer; most hold regular jobs and arrive toward the end of June and stay the week.

U.S. Forest Service officials say up to 10,000 are expected by Sunday at the site about 10 miles north of Lutsen on Lake Superior’s shore in northern Minnesota.

Although many Rainbows share a vision for a peaceful planet, all religious, political and culinary preferences are welcomed.

″We’re not any different from anyone else. We’ve got every spectrum of the rainbow,″ said T-Om.

Like many Rainbows, T-Om got his name at a past gathering, borrowing from a Sanskrit word for ″ultimate harmony.″ Some names reflect the jobs family members perform as part of the tribe; many take on spiritual meanings.

For many, the gathering is a place to heal. Felipe Rainbow, a Yaqui Indian from Mexico, said he went to his first gathering years ago as a wasted alcoholic and found a new perspective on life.

″We encourage people that leave the family to spread the news that there’s people that co-exist - different cultures, different religions - that people can co-exist in harmony,″ Felipe Rainbow said.

″Bring your dogma here, whatever experiences you’ve gleaned from your deity and life, and share it,″ said T-Om of the Austin, Texas, area. ″(But) don’t be hitting people over the head with your books, because people don’t want that.″

While some show up just to party, most arrive well-stocked with contributions. Each day, a coffee can is passed around. Its contents pay for gasoline, medical supplies and food.

″Look what they put in,″ said Michael Bird, a gold miner from Grass Valley, Calif., digging his hand into the canister. ″Food stamps, gold dubloons, nuggets, diamond rings, phone numbers, watches and dollar bills - but mostly money.″

″A lot of people here have a simple philosophy about survival and the Earth,″ said Debbie, a porcelain artist from east Tennessee. ″One of the reasons we draw together is to network and see who’s come up with new ideas. It’s a time to come together and help each other grow.″

Still, the Rainbows have a reputation for flaunting the law and spreading disease.

In 1987, several Rainbows at the gathering near Brevard, N.C., were arrested for drug use. At the gathering, half of the 12,000 people contracted dysentery and eventually spread it to 27 states, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates.

Larry Dawson, Forest Service district ranger, said local and federal authorities did some checking when they heard the Rainbows were coming here. The villagers, he said, have been curious about the gathering, but few have actively opposed it.

″Things have been going really well so far,″ he said. ″The Rainbows have been doing this for 19 years, so they’re keyed in to what’s going on.″

Along streams in the campsite, homemade signs remind members to boil water at least 15 minutes before drinking it. And health officials arrive each day to survey the camp and give suggestions on washing dishes and bathing.

The Rainbows’ respect for the Earth is evident throughout the camp. Littering is taboo, and gardens have popped up to let Rainbows eat what they reap.

They don’t mind being known as hippies, at least in the environmental sense.

″Hippie comes from the word ‘hep,’ in the know,″ said T-Om. ″Being knowledgeable is knowing not to throw your cigarette butts on the ground. Not only does it look nasty, but the animals feed on them.″

The gathering culminates each year on July 4, the sacred day the Rainbows call Interdependence Day.

″At high noon, everybody does their thing in their own way - pray or meditate and try to be peaceful within themselves and put that peaceful vibe out within the universe,″ said Debbie.

At that time, almost like clockwork, it is said that a rainbow appears in the sky. According to Rainbow lore, one even appeared in a clear, blue sky during a Texas gathering a few years back after three months of drought.


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