DENVER — The so-called Rainbow Family Gatherings started in Colorado 50 years ago, and this year, it'll reportedly be back.
Attendees told Denver7 that this year's event could bring about 80,000 people together on one of Colorado's forest lands.
"We expect a very large turnout this year," said James Parisho, a 12-year Rainbow Family Gathering attendee who added the get-together is all about peace.
"We call ourselves a family though we're not related by blood. We're related by our common goal and our common interest in prayer for world peace, because that is what the Rainbow Gathering is entirely centered around," Parisho said.
Parisho, along with others, typically gather as part of the Rainbow Family Gathering for an entire week.
"Usually, Rainbow is portrayed as being a hippie kind of event, and it very much is, but it very much isn't. It's very much for everyone. It's welcoming to all kinds of people from your hippies to your, I guess you could say, rednecks or whoever. Everyone is welcome and everyone shows up," he said.
This year, the gathering will be between July 1 and July 7. Parisho told Denver7 attendees have not chosen the state forest land they plan to gather in just yet, but said it will be held in Colorado.
"This year will be our 50th anniversary gathering, which is why we're coming back to Colorado, where it all started in 1972," Parisho said.
However, despite being an event focused on "praying for world peace," these gatherings have been controversial in the past.
"We keep as minimum impact to the environment as we possibly can. That's actually one of our primary goals and Gathering is leave no trace. And if anything, we leave the forest better than it looked," said Parisho.
Coloradans who've gotten word about the Rainbow Family Gathering say they worry about wildfire danger and cleanliness.
Parisho told Denver7 these are concerns Rainbow Family Gatherings attendees are trying to work out.
"We do a lot of liaison work with the National Forest Service, both on the law enforcement end and with the natural resource end to make sure that we're being careful of sensitive environments in the area that we're going to be in, whether that be wildlife, plant life, or a fragile water source," Parisho said, added the group does not follow one thing: "Generally the Forestry Service is going to ask groups of 75 or more to get a an incident use permit. We do not do that."
Denver7 reached out to the U.S. Forest Service. A spokesperson said they've heard about the gathering potentially being in Grand County:
The Forest Service is aware that the 2022 rainbow family gathering could occur in Colorado, potentially in Grand County. This is not a permitted or sanctioned event. The Forest Service requires a special use permit for every public group of 75 people or more conducting a meeting or event on National Forest System lands. The Rainbow Family has consistently refused to comply with the permit process during national gatherings. We want to assure the community that we are working with our partners and cooperators to prepare for the possibility of a large, extended gathering in Colorado. While these gatherings are not sanctioned, we bring in a significant number of additional resources to help reduce the impacts on local communities and natural resources. As the Grand County community continues to recover from the devastating 2020 wildfires and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the advantage that we have is knowing about this potential incident. This gives us ample time to work together to plan and prepare for it.
Denver7 also reached out to the Grand County Sheriff's Office, and Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said they are aware the gathering was happening in Colorado.
"We are engaged in preliminary discussions with the United States Forest Service as the event would most likely be on public lands," Schroetlin said. "Our local, state, and federal partners will be prepared should the event materialize, and we will strive to minimize the local impacts it could bring to our community.”
State officials told Denver7 they too are aware of the possibility of the gathering being in the state, adding they plan to ramp up coordination between agencies if the event does happen.
The Colorado Department of Natural Resources said: "The State of Colorado is coordinating with the US Forest Service and other federal partners as well as local first responders from Grand County and its municipalities on the rumored Rainbow Family Gatherings this summer. Since the gathering is expected to be on federal lands, the US Forest Service is the lead agency but state agencies coordinating possible assistance in any response includes the Department of Natural Resources (Colorado Parks and Wildlife), Dept of Public Safety (including Colorado State Patrol, Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Dept of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Colorado Bureau of Investigation) and Dept of Local Affairs. Currently, coordination has been preliminary and planning focused and will continue to ramp up as the date nears."
As for the gathering itself, Parisho told Denver7 attendees welcome input from local Coloradans on appropriate gathering locations.
He said they plan to have a finalized location by June.