An estimated 12,000 hippies and free spirits flocked to the Malheur National Forest near John Day, Oregon, for the annual gathering of the Rainbow Family of Living Light. 

An estimated 12,000 hippies and free spirits flocked to the Malheur National Forest near John Day, Oregon, for the annual gathering of the Rainbow Family of Living Light. 

Amanda Peacher/OPB

The highlight of the seven-day Rainbow Family Gathering occurred Tuesday — a mass peace prayer after a morning of silence at the event.

Thousands of campers held hands in a grassy meadow in the Malheur National Forest and meditated for world peace. The silence was broken when a parade of children in colorful costumes and face paint marched into the center of the circle.

“It’s very simple but it’s very moving,” said a Rainbow Family member who gave only the name “Chinkipin,” from Hood River. “This is a constitutional right to come here and gather, for the purpose of peaceful assembly, praying for peace.”

The pinnacle moment of the event followed tragedy: two deaths at the gathering. One unidentified man had collapsed over the weekend and a second man had a heart attack on Monday evening, according to sources at the event. Law enforcement is conducting investigations into both deaths.

The gathering promotes peace, love and acceptance. It continues through Friday.

The Forest Service says the gathering is unsanctioned but the agency can do little to stop the thousands of participants.