Clark Rod Weed was one of the first people Susan Saari called.
Weed owns the Likely General Store in Likely, Calif. Saari manages the Clark Store, 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs. Weed's store was the closest place for supplies for the 1984 and 2004 Rainbow Gatherings. Saari's store will be the closest supply outlet for the 2006 gathering July 1 to 7 in North Routt County.
Saari is particularly concerned because the official Rainbow Gathering map singles out her store as the last chance for gas and supplies.
"This is our busiest time of year anyway," Saari said. "To put 20,000 people on top of that makes me nervous."
To get ready, Saari called Weed. He told her to stock up -- on supplies, on port-a-potties, on Dumpsters and on security.
"It is a whole lot of people," Weed said. "And anytime you get a bunch of people together, you're going to get some bad with the good."
Weed said the gathering is great for business but that it is exhausting. He worked 10- to 12-hour days, seven days a week for more than three weeks during the two gatherings he has been through. He said he has owned the store for 30 years and that no other event has ever approached the magnitude and impact of the gatherings.
"(Weed) told me, 'If I wasn't so busy, I'd come help you, because you are going to need it,'" Saari said. "He said, 'you're not going to believe it.'"
To prepare, Saari has tried to stock up on the items Weed told her to have plenty of -- tobacco and rolling papers, fresh fruit, candy, bottled water, flashlights, batteries, candles and tarps. "What's hard is knowing how much to actually get," Saari said.
Saari is renting a tent for two weeks around the event and will set up tables and a cash register outside. She has hired a team of private security guards to help prevent theft, and she will double-staff the store for two weeks. She is putting four Dumpsters on the lot and six port-a-potties.
"I'm anxious and hopeful that it is going to be OK," she said. "It's like all of Steamboat coming up here two or three times over."
Saari said on Saturday that she already was seeing a steady stream of Rainbow Gathering participants.
One thing Weed advised Saari to do that she couldn't was to get set up to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, which allow the transfer of government benefits such as food stamps to pay for items. "EBT -- that's the predominant way they will pay," Weed said.
Unfortunately, Saari said, it takes 45 days to establish EBT payment at a retail outlet, not enough time for the Clark Store. Saari has posted signs at the store saying it can't accept EBT.
Saari has heard concerns that the normal holiday traffic in Clark and Steamboat Lake will be deterred by the gathering. She has her fingers crossed that isn't the case and that the event will be a positive for business.
"We're just frantic trying to prepare," she said. "(Weed) said my eight-hour day is going to become 12 hours, and he is right.
"It's only for a few weeks. That's what I keep telling myself."
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