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Rainbow Gathering Comes and Goes Quietly, Cleans up Forest

Mr. Kurtz notes that the Rainbow family hippie gathering in the Black Hills National Forest over the July Fourth weekend appears to have come and gone without anything like the disruption of the Sturgis Motor Rally. The Rainbow event peaked with 1,700 people hanging out in the Hills, spending an entire morning in silent prayer (what? no Welcome Wagon from Family Heritage Alliance?). They have mostly dispersed, with a hardy few remaining to clean:

Rainbow member Katrina Wilson says the group has protocols for clean-up.

“Clean-up is usually just whenever the kitchens, the main crews are deciding it’s time to start packing up. And they’ll generally do the process for a few days at least, but it generally takes about a week. And all of the kitchens will pack up their stuff and begin leaving. And then whoever is left, the smaller camps who are just basically feeding themselves and just like getting smaller and smaller and smaller, they’ll stay and clean up. Of course everything’s voluntary, so mostly the people that stay behind are doing it because they love the environment and they want to make sure the forest is better than we left it,” Wilson explains.

…“There’s going to be someone who’s going to police this, they’ll have waves of people, I’ve been on clean up. And eventually it will go in a big pile. We will recycle everything we can, we have the magic hat and we will pay to dump what we can dump,” says [Rainbox participant Devta] Khalsa.

The magic hat is used to anonymously collect money to help fund the gathering. Khalsa says the clean-up will end when the government says the forest is clean [Chynna Lockett, “Rainbow Gathering Ends and Some Campers Stay to Clean,” SDPB Radio, 2015.07.08].

Wow—when motorcyclists dump 2,000 tons of garbage on Sturgis, they expect government to clean up the mess. The Rainbow people clean up their own mess, through charity. It sounds to me as if the Rainbow people are the true conservatives.


  1. Nick Nemec 2015-07-09

    This is just another example of state government getting excited and making a big damn deal out of the wrong thing and completely missing the obvious.

  2. leslie 2015-07-09

    i worry too about the black hills bluegrass festival, that indigenous music that has been here, well…forever (since 1855’s harney ft. pierre winter). perhaps we need to set up a court complete with public defenders office on-site there too, to protect “our black hills that we love so much” (C)KOTA.

    thank god the dead did not do there farewell concert this summer here instead of soldier field.

  3. leslie 2015-07-09


  4. larry kurtz 2015-07-09

    Letting SDGOP control the message is tyranny, it’s just that simple. The christian music festival in Spearditch used to drive me to drink blaring into late night and leaving the city park in ruins.

    I swear.

  5. Porter Lansing 2015-07-09

    With great glee I put this in the P.O.P.P. file . (Piss Off Pat Powers) Hey, conservatives! How do you dance with that stick up your ass? lol

  6. mike from iowa 2015-07-09

    Sounds like the same old “establishment” hippies rebelled against in the 60’s.

  7. Don Carr 2015-07-09

    Great stuff Cory and Larry.

  8. Wayne B. 2015-07-09

    Cory, that link to the Sturgis trash article is confusing.

    If I’m reading that first and last paragraph correctly, the City of Sturgis hauls an extra 550 to 610 tons of garbage due to the rally (the 2000 tons was the total 2 week haul from Sturgis, which was 608 tons more than average).

    Add the extra 104 from the Buffalo chip, and you get maybe 720 tons.

    Here’s a better breakdown

    It’s a lot of garbage, but let’s do some math:

    Last year there were an estimated 442,200 attendees.
    Let’s use the liberal guess of 700 tons (Sturgis + Buffalo Chip + extra goodies elsewhere)

    1.4 million pounds / 442,200 attendees = 3.17 lbs per person

    That’s not too bad for a 10 day event where just about everything is marketed in to-go containers.

    It’d be nice to compare that to the Rainbow Family… but we don’t have stats for them.

  9. leslie 2015-07-09

    anybody drive by rapid city’s regional land fill (dump) lately? phew

    i think the city paid a million bucks for some of that land from kahler realty several years back. (6-10 years life expectancy estimated in 1987)

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-09

    Wayne B., I took my number from the sentence that says, “In all, the waste that hits the landfill from the rally will exceed 4 million pounds.” 4,000,000 lbs divided by 2,000 lbs/ton = 2,000 tons. The figures preceding that line are confusing.

    However much trash they generate, how much of it do they clean up themselves?

  11. Roger Cornelius 2015-07-09

    Every year during the Sturgis Rally the media and police release daily statistics and at the end of the rally gives us some totals.
    Here are some of the questions:
    1. How many attended the rally?
    2. How many DUI arrests were made?
    3. How many felony drug arrests were made?
    4. How many bikes were stolen?
    5. Was there any biker gang related violence?
    Now, compare the applicable questions to the Rainbow Gathering.

    Once again, just like the hype by law enforcement and media about massive terror attacks on the 4th of July, nothing materialized from the Gathering, all it did was provide an opportunity for haters, Indians and rednecks, to display their ignorance.

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-07-09

    I still love hippies, maybe more than ever!

    I read the Hill City P-N articles. Thanks Larry. The shoplifting and one violent attack are disappointing, but I guess it’s not fair to expect perfection from anyone.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-09

    Meade County Commissioner Alan Aker is dreading the rally. Here’s his latest Facebook post:

    BIG RALLY. The commission continues to get reports that this year’s rally will be double or more the size of previous rallies. I hope not. If attendance is double, our road infrastructure will not cope. Rage from waiting in traffic could turn violent. Emergency responders will be hindered. Lives could be lost.

    The county has done a few small things in preparation, in addition to the things we do every year. We have authorized the state DOT to put up temporary signs advising New Underwood road as an alternate route to Sturgis from the east. The rally court schedule will start several days earlier.

    Our jail population has been lower than normal, so we should have plenty of room for those types [Alan Aker, Facebook post, 2015.07.09].

    Even with all that money to be made, Aker isn’t seeing the upside to more road wear and tear and more court and jail costs. Anyone have pictures of the wear and tear those hippies did to the forest trails and that gathering meadow?

  14. W R Old Guy 2015-07-09

    Cory, The county loses a lot of money at every rally. They have to increase staffing to handle the crowds but they get none of the sales tax (Sturgis gets their 2% and the state gets the rest). This has been a complaint of the counties most affected by the rally for years. The legislature refuses to provide a solution in much the same way that an additional tax on alcohol to fund detox centers and other programs is DOA with the legislature.

    I am not a fan of Aker but the New Underwood Road is a poor solution. I drive it on a regular basis. Bikers and their support vehicles such as campers, trailers, motorhomes running on a well maintained road that lacks shoulders, has sharp curves and mixing with farm equipment is not a good thing.

  15. John 2015-07-09

    Roger; keep going.
    How many arrests for underage solicitation were made at the Rainbow gathering – a dozen or more for the Rally.
    How many below the knee amputations were made at the Rainbow gathering – 25 to 30 for the Rally.
    How many assaults, deaths attributable, etc.
    Yeah, the usual suspects in the police-prosecutorial industrial complex went loco over hyping the Rainbow gathering while simultaneously sweeping the Rally vermin and its costs under the rug.

  16. Dana P 2015-07-09

    while everybody was so worried about the “hippies” — 365 days a year, the ATV/UTV and dirt bike crowds are tearing up the hills, big time, yet, no one ever squawks about it. In fact, people encourage the ATV/UTV to come to the hills and tear them apart. Ruts everywhere, litter everywhere. It is very very sad – and angering!!

    Finally KEVN did a story on it today…… any repair that will be done, will fall on the taxpayers. But more than likely, much of the damage is irreversible, and the culprits will never be made to make the trails whole again.–impassable-313006151.html

  17. John 2015-07-10

    Had a badge behind every tree, an incident team in every office, and a magistrate in every trailer to peek at a few neked hippies and to chase a dope arrest — meanwhile behind the badges’ backs the rednecks caused a $1 million in resource damage ripping up the roads, wet meadows, driving through gates, and barriers, knocking down signs, etc. Nice bunt.

    It’s long past the time to allow for civil forfeiture of ATV/UTVs of those convicted of causing resource damage. We use civil forfeiture for poachers and other resource criminals – why do ATV/UTVs get a free pass?!

  18. Mosparx 2015-07-11

    One minor error regarding the Rainbow Gathering Cleanup process quote- Traditionally, with the Rainbow Family, “Cleanup begins the day that you ARRIVE”. If you see a cigarette butt, candy wrapper, water bottle or ANYTHING on the ground that doesn’t belong there, you pick it up and take it to the nearest trash bag at a camp site. It would be nice if the folks that go to Sturgis could implement a similar operational plan.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-11

    Sounds like the right community spirit to me, Mo! Were you with the group in the Black Hills last weekend? If so, how was it? How well did participants uphold that community spirit?

  20. Wayne B. 2015-07-13


    It wasn’t the best written article – the 4 million pounds is what winds up there in a 2 week cycle.

    In any event, if people are putting their trash in the receptacles, that’s pretty darn decent. There are a lot of careless slobs around (the really rear their ugly heads when ice fishing).

    I’ll give a firsthand report on Sturgis littering this summer.

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