BEND, OR -- Thousands are expected to travel through Central Oregon on their way to the John Day area, for the annual Rainbow Family Gathering, which begins Saturday. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office issued an advisory, this week, encouraging residents to take precautions so as not to become a victim of petty crimes like theft, vandalism or trespassing. The agency warns the area could see increased vehicle traffic and hitchhiking, along with lost or stranded motorists trying to get to the event.
Sheriff’s Captain Paul Garrison says the event attracted more than 20,000 to 30,000 visitors to the Ochocos in 1997, straining law enforcement and social services. "We saw a rise in petty thefts with local merchants, vandalism, trespassing. I’m not saying this entire group is that way; obviously, it only takes a few bad apples to give a reputation."
The Rainbow family is a loosely affiliated group with no organized leadership. KBND listener “Jim” attended annual gatherings for several decades, but hasn’t gone in recent years. He says the crowd has changed. "Many years ago, it was just a bunch of kind of old hippies getting together and not causing trouble. But, the newer generation, it’s more like seeing what they can take and not cleaning up after themselves." But, he believes most members of the group aren't dangerous, "The main impact in Central Oregon is going to be when this group comes through. They clean out all the services, all the food banks and anything they can possibly get their hands on. And, there is a lot of petty theft. But, it’s more nuisance than threat; I think that’s the best way to put it."
Jim says this year the Bend area is in for a double dose of the group. "The following weekend is the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta. So, you’re going to have people at the Rainbow Gathering, and they’re going to be going all the way back through to get to Veneta. So, we’re going to get this group passing through twice." The gathering ends July 7, the same day the Oregon Country Fair begins, west of Eugene. Capt. Garrison says they’re ready, even though the group isn’t actually meeting here. "We anticipate that. We haven’t staffed additionally for it, because again, it’s not an immediate impact to us." He says it's possible some members stay in Central Oregon through the August 21 eclipse.
to listen to the full conversation with Capt. Paul Garrison and Jim, or visit our Podcast Page
PHOTO: 2013 Rainbow Gathering near Jackson, Montana.