The Rainbow Gathering is a large, temporary community that gets together once a year for what is called the “national” gathering. They choose remote locations all over the world, with the setup starting in late June, and the main week being the first week in July. Events include a Solstice dinner, a prayer circle for peace which is held on July 4, musical entertainment, and plenty of creative fellowship.

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When they announced that their annual gathering place would be held in the North Georgia mountains, the state quickly began to brace for the impact.

Forsyth County News reported that "at the Chattahoochee National Forest in Lumpkin County," the Forest Service had "spoken with members of the Rainbow Family group and has been preparing for the crowds." AccessWDUN noted that "this year, the group has selected an area north of Dahlonega in the Nimblewill Gap area for its gathering."

With inconsistent reviews and opinions, I decided to visit the camp during Seed Week to get the inside story.

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Many people are apprehensive about Rainbow Gathering

Since it's inaugural gathering in 1972, the people who attend Rainbow Gathering have been labeled as hippies, who bring increased crime rates and leave environmental destruction. This has put a heavy strain on the relationship between the Rainbow Family and local and federal forest officers, public safety, and citizens, despite their peaceful message.

The philosophy behind Rainbow Gathering consists of peace, freedom, community, and harmony. Anyone is allowed to attend, and they will be greeted with a loving, "Welcome home!" by everyone they meet. Their lifestyle is very creative and free from capitalism and authority. The atmosphere is communal, where everyone helps their neighbors, without expecting anything in return.

They live a sustainable lifestyle by creating most of their necessities out of organic resources found in the environment around them.

They do as much as they can to leave the smallest impact possible, as not to disrupt the ecosystem. Several of the Rainbow Family also explained that they will not bathe in the streams because they do not want to contaminate the water source.

Although they are not understood by many people who encounter them, the Rainbow Family remains friendly, welcoming, and peaceful. One long-time hippie and gather attendee, Jameson Godlove, who is known as Brother One Feather, explained that it is the "Spirit of the Woodstock Nation," with their message being one of peace and unity.

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Rainbow Gathering 2018 is a prayer gathering for peace

For their 2018 national gathering, the Rainbow Family chose the southern Appalachian mountains as their location. This week is known as Seed Camp, which is the preparation week before most people arrive, so almost everyone is busy setting up different camps, kitchens, and other stations.

Despite the workload, they stop what they are doing and immediately welcome anyone they encounter with a warm hug and their signature salutation of, "Welcome home!" During a time where children are being torn from their families and our nation is so confused and divided, it is refreshing to see such a large group of loving 'hippies' come together and pray for peace.

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Throughout the national forest, they have set up makeshift dishwashing stations, kitchens, homemade stoves, and other essentials needed for life in the woods. In addition to being very resourceful, they are also very adamant about being respectful not only to the environment but also to the locals, in hopes of alleviating any of their concerns.

At any given time, one will find various camps where several of the Rainbow Family are playing music and cooking homemade onion rings. I had the honor of trying one of their onion rings, which was so delicious. April, a Rainbow Gathering attendee, explained that they had planted a small onion garden, which had begun to sprout. This type of resourcefulness is very common throughout the different camps at the gathering. During the duration of the gathering, they host a series of events, such as dinners, entertainment at the Granola Funk Theater, prayer circles for peace, and even a children's parade to break the silence the morning of July 4th.

Another Rainbow Gathering attendee, Erica Berger, explained their July 4th peace celebration as, "We do a peace circle on the 4th of July. Everyone is silent the whole day from sun up (such an incredible experience... a forest full of people and it’s silent) until the children’s parade breaks the silence of the peace ceremony and then we all hold hands in a giant circle and Om."

After seeing first-hand the strong sense of community, and experiencing a welcome so inviting it made it hard to leave. Anyone who is apprehensive about the group can visit and see for themselves what the Rainbow Family represents. June 28 through July 4 are the best days to go. Take a hammock, be prepared for a decent hike and humid weather.

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