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Spokane gets the rain, Idaho gets the Rainbows

Family to gather somewhere in Boise National Forest

The Spokesman-Review, June 14, 2001
http://www.spokesmanreview.com/ Off-site Link

rainbow family, rainbow gathering, religion news report provides news of interest to those who work in Christian apologetics and countercult ministriesn.  It includes information about religious cults, sects, new religious movements, and related issues, such as religious freedom, religious tolerance, and cult crimes.

Remember when then-Commissioner Steve Hasson said he had to leave Spokane once in a while to find culture in California?

Remember when triple-A baseball decided Spokane was still a single-A town?

Remember when Forbes magazine said this was a lousy place to do business?

Well, we've been dissed again.

This time, it's the Rainbow Family, which apparently has decided to hold its summer gathering in the Boise National Forest, although an exact location hasn't been picked. The group had been expected to pick a site in Eastern Washington or North Idaho.

That means more than 20,000 hippies and other free spirits will be wandering through Boise, rather than Spokane, on their way to a meadow somewhere in the woods. The weekslong gathering, which is moved every year and draws participants from across the country, culminates July 4, when gatherers pray for peace.

Those who have money will spend it in potato country. Those who are broke will stress food banks, hospitals and shelters down there. It's Idaho cops who will make whatever busts must be made and Idaho evangelists who will have access to unsaved souls.

But, dang, Spokane was ready.

In the past several weeks, there were at least five meetings among various groups to plan for the gathering.

Downtown Spokane business owners feared an increase in panhandling and talked of beefing up security. Public health officials talked of passing out free condoms. Food bank directors wondered how they could help the travelers and still meet local needs. Police feared jail bookings would break their budget.

Churches saw it as an opportunity to evangelize and minister, and started holding prayer meetings to gird themselves for the task.

Tuesday morning, a seven-member Forest Service task force that does little but monitor the Rainbows pulled out of Spokane, where they had been preparing police, business owners and others. They were so sure the Rainbows were coming here that they had made no similar effort in the Boise area.

People in Lowman, Idaho, "are a little bit in shock," said Sharon Sweeney, spokeswoman of the National Incident Management Team. The speck of a town is near the likely sites for the Rainbow gathering.

Near Lowman, at Cache Creek Meadow, 75 to 200 Rainbow people -- estimates vary -- are gathered this week for the group's spring council. They've narrowed the options for the summer gathering to three sites in the Boise National Forest, said longtime Rainbow member Garrick Beck of New Mexico.

Spring council is the traditional decision-making body that chooses the gathering site. It can take a while, since the leaderless group strives for consensus, rather than majority rule, and allows anyone to participate.

Sweeney said two Rainbows met with rangers at the Lowman Ranger District on Tuesday to ask their advice for a location. They were told that just about anyplace they meet will damage the habitat of lynx, gray wolves and other endangered critters. The spot they picked for spring council would have an especially big impact on bull trout and other endangered fish, Sweeney said.

Sweeney said the district ranger suggested a few meadows where the effect of tens of thousands of campers might be lessened, and the Rainbows seemed willing to consider those locations.

The final decision for the gathering location will be announced on the group's "unofficial" Web site, www.welcomehome.orgOff-site Link.

Once the location is known, someone might want to contact former commissioner Hasson. Like the Rainbows, he eventually left Spokane for Boise. This summer, he might not have to visit San Francisco to find culture.

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