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John Hollenhorst ReportingGovernment agencies from Utah and Wyoming held their first big strategy meeting today to plan for a sudden influx of 20-thousand people, to a meadow in the Uintah Mountains.
Officially, the annual "Rainbow Gathering" of self-styled peace and love advocates is set for early July. But Rainbows from around the country are already causing concern in nearby communities.
On the streets of Evanston, there are hungry, hungry hippies. Some members of the Rainbow Family try to bum a ride. Many try to bum money.
Road Dog"/Rainbow Family: "And if I could tell the local people around here one thing, that's 'we're gonna bring a lot of money to this town'."
But when asked about his pan handling sign, Road Dog replied, "Oh, yeah, I'm just trying to get something to eat, man! I'm broke right now."
The panhandling has caused strain with local merchants. Some are 'chasing rainbows' away.
Welfare officials say dozens of Rainbows have shown up at their offices in the last two weeks, looking for government handouts. They try to get welfare money and food stamps, or money for gas or transportation.
Jim Hissong/County Human Services Coordinator: "They're coming in and they don't have any means of support. Wherever they're coming from, they don't have any means of support."
Jim Hissong admits that may not be true of most Rainbows. Many of the 20,000 who are coming are like John Young. He has a real job, his own wheels and money for food.
John Young/Rainbow Family: "No, everybody's different. There's doctors and lawyers from all over the world."
But the first wave of arrivals, about 14-hundred over the last two weeks, seems to be unemployed or under-funded.
Jim Hissong/County Human Services Coordinator: "These people fully intend to be a drain on the community. We don't feel obligated to help them."
Some locals have stopped and given money or food to those hungry hungry hippies.
Rosa Thibodeau/Evanston: "That's what Rainbow is all about, is helping each other, which is what the human race is supposed to do."
Rainbow veterans say locals will do well once the Gathering is fully underway.
John Young/Rainbow Family: "There's an extra 20,000 people buying stuff. So it really helps them out."
There is welfare money available that could be used for such things as gasoline and bus tickets. But officials here say they're inclined to save it until the Rainbow gathering is over
Jim Hissong/County Human Services Coordinator: "Here's 10 dollars worth of gas. Please move on. We'll try to help you get out of here."
For many residents here, it seems, that day may not come soon enough. The cold wet weather seems to have temporarily dampened the Rainbows. The crowd at the mountain campsite declined from nearly 14-hundred to about 11-hundred, but officials expect it to build quickly in the next few days.