To Gather or Not to Gather: Rainbow Family Debates Forest Campout

This year’s National Rainbow Gathering was scheduled to take place in Idaho. (Photo by Matjaz Krivic)

It's quite the dilemma for the Rainbow Family of Living Light. Every year from July 1-7, the Rainbows camp out in a national forest. This year's gathering was supposed to take place in Idaho. And then Covid happened.

According to the Rainbows' unofficial website, "It appears that the common consensus is to not gather this July to respect the rights of people in Idaho to not be accidentally infected."

Another site,, is encouraging people not to go to Idaho:

While we recognize and highly value our first amendment rights, we, the undersigned individuals, kitchens and camps, having weighed the benefits and risks feel that, in light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, it would be unsafe to come together for our annual gathering at this time. Out of enormous concern and respect for the health and safety of the individuals who attend Rainbow Gatherings, the people of Idaho and the local communities, as well as the people and the health care resources that may be impacted by those traveling to and from a Gathering, we agree:

• Not to attend any Rainbow Gathering in Idaho this summer, to #OmFromHome, or to find safer ways to pray for peace.

• To send our prayers around the world to those who have lost loved ones and to those who are suffering.

We, the undersigned, invite you to join us in supporting this vision by adding your name to this agreement and by choosing not to gather in large groups at this time.

More than 400 people signed on to this declaration.

The Rainbow Family has no specific leaders, though elders are respected as organizers. As many as 10,000 people convene in forests each July as a self-sufficient hippie community that runs on bartering and good vibes. Kitchens thoughout the site feed people in exchange for work. Mostly, attendees enjoy nature, smoke a lot of pot, take pychedelic drugs and strip themselves of belongings and ego.

However, there are some who do want to gather in July. "Those who act with respect and awareness to protect others and follow health guidance should not be ashamed of Gathering if they feel guided by the Great Spirit and not selfish ego," writes John McCall at Facebook.

In addition to Covid concerns, the Rainbows are also facing opposition from the Nez Perce tribe. Some early arrivers set up camp in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest near Riggins, ID.

“There is no guarantee that people coming in from other states or even from other areas of Idaho are not carriers of COVID-19,” the tribe stated in advance of the event. “Many people carrying this virus are asymptomatic. Therefore, a gathering could become dangerous for the citizens of our reservation with a simple trip to the grocery store by one member of the Rainbow Family gathering.”

Family elder Barry "Plunkr" Adams agrees with the Nez Perce:

"Just pray for no sickness, no deaths. You gather, do your own thing, pack, hopefully clean-up and leave. I pray you ain't arrested. I have been thru several epidemics outa rainbow gatherings when thousands got sick. Had to change the vibe from being sloppy unhealthy to seek safer healthy, hence water filters, health inspections by govt and by Gatherers. You are throwing all that out."

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.