Skip to content

Beware of 30,000 hippies

BY BREE DAVIES | @CocoDavies


If the Rainbow Family of Living Light has their way, it’s possible. As Jason Blevins at the Colorado Sun reports, the informal group of thousands of hippie campers is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year; word on the street is that they plan to converge somewhere in Colorado’s outdoor space for what they call the Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes.

All signs point to a June or July landing in Grand County, where the group held its first weeks-long camping session in 1972.

Who – or what – is the Rainbow Family anyway?

Vice profiled the group a few years ago:

“…started in the late 1960s as an outgrowth of the anti-war and hippy movements, the Rainbow Family of Living Light describes itself as ‘the largest best coordinated non-political non-denominational non-organization of like-minded individuals on the planet.’

The flagship Rainbow Family Gatherings, which have occurred every July since 1972 in a different US national forest, are like longer, more authentically weird versions of Burning Man, bringing together upwards of 10,000 “Rainbows” from a cross section of fringe culture: bikers, Jesus freaks, computer programmers, naked yogis, and gutter punks looking to escape ‘Babylon,’ the Rainbow shorthand for the various evils of modern life.”

So, why all the speculation?

Well, the Rainbow Family has no official leadership or hierarchical structure to hold accountable — meaning its annual Rainbow Gathering is not like other festivals or events where there is a point of contact, or even a publicly-available plan in place. Everything known about the upcoming Rainbow Gathering is gleaned from online activity, the impacts of previous gatherings, and lots of speculation. This has left concerned mountain communities and forest service officials with no one to talk to when it comes to the group’s potential camping plans, let alone any way to enforce the usual permit requirements for such events.

The local subreddits exploded about it last week, with redditors calling for intervention by the governor and state senators, and asking concerned parties to call in tips about the Rainbow Gathering’s potential whereabouts to the National Parks Service. Many posts echoed concerns about human-sparked wildfires during the dry season, excessive trash and human waste created by thousands of people, and the trampling and destruction of delicate outdoor space and natural resources.

What if 30,000 unruly hippies do show up in Colorado this summer?

The Forest Service says it is preparing as best it can with the information it has collected from previous events and is monitoring online chatter. Best of luck, I guess?

This is certainly something we at City Cast Denver have our eyes on, and we’ll bring you more as the situation develops. Peace, mannnnn.

Read more about the Rainbow Family and their annual gathering:

🌈 Thousands from Rainbow Family sect plan to descend on Colorado this summer, making law enforcement nervous – The Denver Post

☮️ Peace and Religious Festival Begins in Colorado Despite Official Opposition – The New York Times

⛺ With Rainbow Family Gathering 2022 potentially to be held in Colorado, Forest Service explains what they do to monitor – 9News



Do you love this newsletter? Have thoughts, suggestions, or opinions for making it better? Take our super quick survey and let us know!

You can enter to win two FREE tickets to see Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad LIVE at Paramount Theatre on April 17.

Plus, you’ll also win my eternal gratitude 🙏


Denver was ranked seventh as one of the most violent places for Indigenous women in the country. So we knew we had a problem. But we also knew we didn’t have all the data to understand why or how to combat this problem.

How Can Colorado Tackle the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People?
”There is no accurate picture” of how many indigenous people have been murdered or gone missing in Colorado, according to our guest today, Raven Payment. Amid a growing, international movement to address the crisis of MMIR — Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives — she helped form a task force to take on the issue locally. Step one? Push for legislation to create a state office that can actually figure out how big this problem is. The office would assist with homicide investigations involving indigenous victims, provide assistance to families whose relatives are missing, and offer culturally responsive training to others handling these cases. Today on the show, Host Bree Davies talks with Raven Payment, who identifies as Kanien’kehá:ka and Anishinaabe, about her work on the task force and her recent testimony in favor of the creation of this office to support cases involving Indigenous people.


Listen to podcasts to save America!
Denver, are you worried about our democracy in America? If you read the City Cast newsletter, then you’re most likely a very engaged citizen. Democracy is in danger and needs your help now more than ever. That’s why The Democracy Group has created a community and network of 16 podcasts united around the goal of helping listeners understand what’s broken in our democracy, and how people are working together to fix it. Subscribe to their newsletter for podcast recommendations, deep dives, and information about how to become an engaged citizen in saving our democracy.


🚨 Protester who shot at Jeep during protests is sentenced: Last Thursday, a jury found Samuel Young guilty of multiple counts of second-degree assault, attempted manslaughter, and illegally discharging his gun. While attending a protest against police violence in the summer of 2020, Young was part of a crowd that attempted to shut down I-225 in Aurora. When a Jeep drove through that crowd, Young fired five shots at it, ultimately injuring three fellow demonstrators. Though his defense team argued that he was reacting in defense of other demonstrators, the jury ultimately found him guilty on five counts. The driver of the Jeep was not charged. [Denver Post]

 📈 Yes, rents are still rising in Colorado. In a surprise to no one, the Denver metro area saw increases in rental costs in April. Sadly, areas like Boulder County — which is still grappling with hundreds of people who lost their homes in the Marshall Fire — saw a 19.4 percent year over year increase in Boulder proper. [Westword]

🏥 People seeking end-of-life medications are on the rise: Six years ago, Colorado voters made it legal for doctors to prescribe aid-in-dying medication for people with terminal illnesses. A new report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows patients have increasingly utilized this medication access each year since 2016, resulting in 777 prescriptions for life-ending drugs prescribed in the last five years. [Colorado Sun]

  • 🩺 The aid-in-dying issue is complicated: Check out our March 21 podcast episode with Colorado Sun reporter Jennifer Brown, who talked to a doctor arguing that Colorado’s aid-in-dying law should extend to people suffering from certain extreme eating disorder cases.

Become a better Denverite.
Subscribe today.