JACKSON — The Rainbow gathering is drawing to a close and the U.S. Forest Service is beginning to draw a collective sigh of relief.
Nearly 2,000 people departed the site Friday near Saginaw Creek in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest about 10 miles southwest of Jackson.
The highlight of the gathering was on Thursday when nearly 9,700 people gathering in a circle to pray and mediate for world peace. Though the event had problems, a Forest Service spokesperson said Friday that it looked like it was going to end without any major incidents because of the cooperation of the different authorities policing the event, along with the generally good behavior of the Rainbow family.
“By working together and sharing jurisdictions and things like that we’ve managed (it) well, especially with only a couple of days notice,” Cairns said. “It looked liked it worked well.”
The Rainbow Family didn’t formally announce that they were coming to the Jackson area until June 18, but the Forest Service knew for months that they were considering coming to Montana again. The family also held their gathering in Montana in 2000 when an estimated 22,000 people came to the same site near Jackson.
The Forest Service budgeted $400,000 for this year’s event and managed it in cooperation with Beaverhead County, the Dillon police, the Montana Highway Patrol, the Beaverhead sheriff’s department, among other agencies.
Cairns, who visited the site on most days, has also spoken highly of the majority of the Rainbow people. In daily briefings with the media, she has said the majority of them were cooperative and took care of their animals.
She said the July 4 prayer circle was so large that it stretched from the main meadow up into the surrounding hills.
“It was quite an experience,” she said. “I was told that you could feel a sense of what they call a ‘good vibe.’”
Cairns did caution travelers along Highway 278 in the Big Hole area. That road along with Saginaw Road should see a high volume over the next few days.
The fire level in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest was raised from low to moderate on Friday. According to the Forest Service’s website, the Forest Service has five fire ratings: low, moderate, high, very high, and extreme. Moderate means that fires can start easily and spread at a moderate rate, though they are not likely to become serious.
— Reporter Francis Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org