Georgia town braces for up to 10,000 for Rainbow Family gathering

LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. — A small north Georgia town is bracing for as many as 10,000 self-proclaimed "hippies."

They're setting up camp in the Bull Mountain area of the Chattahoochee National Forest for what they call The Rainbow Family Gathering.

A lot of preparation is underway in Dahlonega to handle the mass arrival.

The counterculture event goes back to the early '70s.


"The center of American counterculture is going to be right here," Barry Sacharow said.

Sacharow is a 63-year-old teacher from Florida. He belongs to the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a leaderless, loosely knit collection of so-called tribes that congregate each year in remote forests.

They told Channel 2 Action News they share of bond of peace, harmony, freedom and respect.

"Each camp is set up for a different purpose -- some for food, some faith, art, entertainments," Sacharow said.

The migration of thousands into the national forest poses a logistical challenge for forest rangers, along with local law enforcement officers.

"Our primary concern is traffic. This is a remote and rugged area," said Steven Bekkerus, with the U.S. Forest Service.

There are also concerns about trash, sanitation, the health and safety of campers, and illegal drug use.

"We are asking our festival visitors to obey state and local laws and we plan on enforcing those laws," Bekkerus said.

One attendee told Channel 2 Action News he was stopped at a checkpoint where rangers unloaded and searched his vehicle.

"They found nothing on me, and let me clean it up by myself," the man said.

Dahlonega tourists do not quite know what to make of the gathering.

"It's kind of a throwback to the '60s," Tom and Bob McKill said. Channel 2's Tom Regan asked if they would be attending. "Probably not," they said.

But others said there's no place they would rather be.

"There's love here. It's family. We're one giant family," a woman said.

The Rainbow Family Gathering comes to a peak July 4.