JOHN DAY, Ore. - It’s a family reunion many people actually look forward to going to.
“I keep coming back for the people," Joe Singh said Friday. “It’s all about the family. The people out here are some of the best I’ve ever come across in my entire life.”
“I’ve gone to a lot of Rainbow Gatherings in the past, and I love the community,” Magghie O’Shea said.
This year, the end of the rainbow led to the Malheur National Forest, the site of the 2017 Rainbow Family Gathering.
Forest Service Public Information Officer Kyle Johnson said it’s hard to predict attendance, but the Forest Service is estimating as many as 20,000 people could show up by July Fourth.
Many of them will be passing through places on the other end of the lifestyle spectrum, such as John Day.
“Most of the locals have been really kind to us," O'Shea said. "A few of them have, like, yelled mean things to us out of car windows.”
Both gathering attendees and John Day businesses said it’s been a mixed bag.
“We’ve had to do some tightened security stuff that we’ve never really experienced in John Day before,” said Heather Rookstool, the manager of Java Junction. “But other than that, the majority of
them have been really nice.”
Shop owners said the extra traffic has been good for their bottom line, but not without some concerns.
Rookstool said she’s had to post a "no public restroom" sign and lock the Wi-Fi because many people were using both without making any purchases.
Other business owners agreed there have been some petty crimes, but nothing major.
One main concern for the communities near where these gatherings are held is the aftermath and cleanup of what's left behind.
“I think the town is worried about what our land is going to look like after,” Rookstool said.
The Forest Service is monitoring the situation and has an agreement with the Rainbow attendees in lieu of a permit.
“The amount of people -- yeah, you can’t concentrate that many folks without having some sort of an impact to the land,” Johnson said.
Attendees who spoke with NewsChannel 21 said they were committed to cleaning up the land before they leave, and maybe even changing some people’s image of them.
“They just think everyone out here is a bunch of stoner hippies, and it’s not like that. That’s such a small word for such a bigger group,” Singh said.