The Rainbow Gathering is hard to explain; it's half festival, half intentional community. Since the early '70s, tens of thousands of people have gathered every year in a different American forest to build a temporary village. There are no ticket sales or official organizers; even food is free. Everybody camps out, makes art and shares — a little like a non-corporate Burning Man festival.

People organize smaller regional gatherings around the world, but the American national gathering is generally the biggest. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, this year's national Rainbow Gathering in central Oregon drew more than 13,000 campers. They built kitchens, cooked, made trails and ran medical tents.

clown man in sunglasses at the Rainbow Gathering When I was taking photos, a man insisted I snap a shot of his clownish friend. I'm glad he did. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

At Rainbow Gatherings, there's no difference between a "volunteer," "organizer," or "attendee" because everyone is all three. I even found two libraries and met a man who decided to serve as the gathering's postal service.

man in dreadlocks at the Rainbow Gathering Dreadlocks were a pretty common hairstyle. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

People who come to these gatherings tend to be interested in the environment and sustainability, though those words mean different things to different people.

I talked to a woman collecting data to figure out how to improve water systems in New York, a man trying to create a permaculture community in the Midwest, a whole camp of people giving away vegan food (another gave out freshly fried bacon), and another camp devoted to nature tours.

couple kissing at the Rainbow Gathering It took a few tries to get this photo right, which was no problem for this passionate couple. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Anyone was free to set up any kind of free service. One man brought a massage table and created a bodywork area. Another group gave away varieties of herbal teas every hour of the day.

Nor was everything limited to the physical. I ran into a man at midnight who was offering dream interpretations. Some people built a full stage, where they hosted a fresh take on "The Gong Show."

man with curly hair at the Rainbow Gathering Something about this guy reminded me of a magician. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

As for me, I wrote "free photo portraits" on a piece of cardboard and hung it around my neck, which is how I was able to capture all these portraits of the wide variety of folks who attended.

Hippies, crust punks, families, students, homeless kids, engineers and artists all came together on even footing to enjoy each other's company in the woods.

couple looking pensive at the Rainbow Gathering This thoughtful-looking couple could have come from another era. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

woman looking mysterious at the Rainbow Gathering She looked quite mysterious under that shadowy hat. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

rainbow unicorn man at the Rainbow Gathering The Rainbow Festival was also a great place to break out the costumes. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

two young girls at the Rainbow Gathering These two friends played quite a few pranks. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

two friends fooling around at the Rainbow Gathering Everyone spent a lot of time hiking around various trails. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

redhead girl at the Rainbow Gathering She went around with other redheads organizing the annual redhead parade. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

girl laughing at the Rainbow Gathering People of all ages came, though people in their 20s and 30s seemed to be the most common. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

kid in homemade stroller at the Rainbow Gathering There were quite a few kids there — one camp was even called Kiddie Village. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

man putting hands in heart at the Rainbow Gathering He experimented with different hand positions before settling on this one. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

couple holding each other at the Rainbow Gathering You can't quite see it, but he's holding a small rodent. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

woman in hat at trade circle at the Rainbow Gathering I was sitting at the trade circle when she came by, looking for items to trade. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

man making giant bubbles at the Rainbow Gathering A little kid was watching, amazed, as this man made giant bubbles. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

Man creating giant bubbles at the Rainbow Gathering In case you're wondering what the bubble blower looks like from the front ... (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

man looking suspicious at the Rainbow Gathering I caught this man waiting for food at a big kitchen on top of a hill. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

group of crust punks with dog Crust punks and hippies live in harmony. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

man with a beard at the Rainbow Gathering He was helping out at a kitchen giving away eggs, potatoes, bacon and coffee. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

close friends at the Rainbow Gathering Some people came with close friends, while others showed up solo. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

blue haired man at the Rainbow Gathering The only way to look weird at the gathering was to look too normal. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)

little girl smiling at the Rainbow Gathering Messiness was only to be expected at an extended campout. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss)