The vanguard of a group of 10,000 nudists, hippies and other free spirits has begun to arrive for the annual “Rainbow Family” gathering near Salt Lake City, prompting two Mormon Church-owned girls’ summer camps to leave the area.
The gathering has been largely peaceful in years past, reported the Associated Press, though a handful of drug arrests and public disturbances are to be expected.
Already this year, Rainbow Family attendees have crashed a wedding reception looking for food, and a 39-year-old New Hampshire woman was found dead last Sunday near the Duchesne River.
Authorities said the woman appeared to have died in her sleep, though it was unclear if drugs played a role in her death.
Attendees have expressed a desire to limit the environmental impact of Rainbow Family.
“People have approached and asked, ‘How can we be lighter on the ground; how can we minimize those impacts?’” a Forest Service official told the Associated Press.
The very loosely organized Rainbow Family has met every year since 1972, descending on a different national park each year. This is the first time the group has convened in Utah since 2003.
Residents of Wasatch County have voiced concerns about the environmental, economic and social costs of the gathering.
“The taxpayers are going to have to deal with it whether they like it or not,” said Wasatch County Sheriff Tim Bonner. “No one likes it. This many people coming in. It’s a strain on law enforcement. It’s a real strain on law enforcement around here. We hate it. It’s not fun. It’s hard on the families.”
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