SISTERS, OR -- The Rainbow Family is again moving through Central Oregon. Last year, thousands of members of the loosely affiliated group traveled through Crook County on their way to a gathering in the Malheur National Forest (pictured). This year’s regional gathering is off Highway 22, near Santiam Pass. "We’re expecting that this event could have up to 600 people traveling into the area," says Sgt. William Bailey, with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, "Although the area is not in Deschutes County, Sisters is the closest town for fuel and supplies, for the people attending the event."
Sgt. Bailey tells KBND News, "Based on past experience and information that we’ve learned, we know there can be an increase in vehicle traffic and hitchhiking, people that are stranded or lost. We just want people to be aware and watch for the possibility of increased theft and criminal mischief in the area." But, he says not everyone associated with the group is bad, "A lot of them do have good intentions to just come and enjoy themselves. But, there’s always an element of bad with the good and we just want to make the public aware."
The Rainbow Family has no organized leader and is said to be committed to principles of non-violence and community building. Last year’s gathering in Grant County brought an estimated 13,000 people to the Malheur National Forest, where officials said they left trash and damage, and strained law enforcement resources. And in 1997, the Rainbow Family met in the Ochoco National Forest, with 20,000-30,000 visitors.