The thousands of Rainbow Gathering attendees come from all walks of life, but they share one thing in common: the need to eat.
As of Saturday afternoon, the first official day of the 45th annual gathering on national forest lands, almost 7,200 people had set up camp for the seven-day event surrounding a July 4 prayer for peace.
Flagtail Meadows, the site of the gathering in the Malheur National Forest south of John Day, buzzed with activity as new arrivals carried supplies into the camp.
To feed the masses, several large kitchens have been set up around the site.
The Global Relief Kitchen is situated in a massive tepee and is capable of making 100 gallons of food in an hour using minimal natural fuel.
An attendee who called himself “Lucid,” of the Global Relief Kitchen, said the Rainbow Gathering is a great testing ground for disaster relief projects.
“When you’re actually in a disaster situation or refugee camp, you don’t have the time or the ability to test and make changes to the project,” he said. “Everything has to be perfect.”
The kitchen uses roughly half a dozen rocket stoves made from used oil drums and beer kegs. The oil drums contain the heat made by a small fire and cook whatever is placed into the kegs above them. The result is a highly efficient stove that keeps the tepee cool and vents smoke out of people’s breathing space.
Lucid set up the kitchen during the 2016 floods in Baton Rouge and is working to make the kitchen an official nonprofit.
“Rainbow has been a really great trial ground to iron out all the kinks, troubleshoot all the problems,” he said.
The kitchen typically cooks vegetarian stir-fries, curries and soups because they are able to feed the largest variety of people with vegetarian food.
The meals provided by the Global Relief Kitchen bring people together and help create a sense of community at the gathering.
Attendee Dan Hooke said this is his eighth gathering. He keeps returning because he enjoys the sense of home he finds at the gathering.
Hooke hand-makes flutes from bamboo and enjoys sharing his music with other attendees. He also trades his flutes for anything he might need at the gathering, where bartering is the only form of currency.
Janel Ahle and her young daughter Masha are attending their first gathering. Ahle said she believes her daughter will enjoy Kiddie Village, an area made specifically for children at the gathering, and she looks forward to the socialization her daughter will experience.
The Rainbow Gathering, which began with a July 4 prayer in 1972, is non-denominational and welcomes all faiths.
The Jesus Kitchen, at the Jesus Camp, holds regular morning prayers and a more formal meeting Sunday night, as well as cooking for anyone who comes by.
“We try to create an atmosphere here where people can come in and feel loved and accepted,” said Joshua Hanson of the Jesus Kitchen.
The camp has been a staple at national Rainbow Gatherings since 1997.
“Predominantly, people are really open and accepting of Jesus Camp out here, but there are some people that have a problem with it,” Hanson said.
Like most of the others, Jesus Kitchen usually cooks vegetarian but will sometimes include meat on the menu.
“Not a lot of kitchens will do meat,” he said, “but we do try to mix it up occasionally just because there are people that need the meat.”