COUGAR, Wash. – U.S. Forest Service officials are working with Skamania authorities to prepare for the "All improv all the time" Rainbow Gathering of Living Light in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, where 10,000 people are expected to gather this weekend.
The festival is held at a different location in the U.S. each year. People come together to live for about a week in a natural setting to “try and achieve peace and love on earth,” according to online descriptions.
Participants began to arriving Thursday and Friday, setting up tents and banners in the forest.
Since 1972 the leader-less counterculture followers have gathered annually in different national forests to live off the land.
Marijuana and psychedelic drugs abound - but harder drugs and alcohol are prohibited, one man said. The group camped in the Colville National Forest last summer.
Around 3,500 people were already camping out in the Skookum Meadows area -- and organizers said the number would likely triple the population of Skamania County.
Skamania County Sheriff Dave Brown said his department has used the past two weeks to prepare for the influx of as many as 20,000 visitors.
“We're obviously a small county and our resources are limited. We have a small jail that's two-thirds full right now and we could fill that up over the next week,” Brown said. “Yeah, I'm concerned about that and I'm concerned the taxpayers in this county are covering the cost.”
Brown also suggested that anyone who is not part of the Rainbow Family gathering should avoid the camping areas for the next couple weeks, if possible.
Representatives from the Multi-Agency Coordinating group told reporters Tuesday their aim was to ensure safety and security for employees, neighbors and attendees.
"I haven't found an organizer yet," Brown said. "I've had a lot of interesting conversations with people who say they have no organization, no authority. It's something we have no control over, they have a right to travel freely in this country."