Kiddie Village, first known as Kiddie City, made its first appearance in Rainbow at the New Mexico Gathering in 1977. Feather and Wavy Gravy were the main focalizers that first year, though in the following years many different people would take it on (like Swami Mommy in 1979). These folks would generally become focalizers for year or two and then move on as their kids grew up, didn’t come, or something else came up.
In the beginning, Kiddie City was primarily a play space for kids, not a kitchen. No Guns, one of the inspirations for its inception, didn’t want the kids to be removed from Main Circle. At Kiddie City, they’d get apples and oranges and cut them up just like you’d find at snack time at school. There would be water and sometimes a bit of juice, if they could get the money or the ingredients, but generally that would be the extent of it. Main Circle was still the place that everyone went for dinner.
During the 70s and well into the 80s, Rainbow Gatherings functioned with just one main kitchen, main supply, and main circle. That’s where you went to get food. By the early 1980s, however, Rainbow was growing astronomically. There were a LOT of mothers coming with their kids to Kiddie City, as well as a number of kids being born into the rainbow family. As the numbers grew, the demand for food also grew. As a result, the focalizers asked for someone from Main Kitchen to volunteer to make food for Kiddie City. Felipe volunteered.
At the time, Felipe had an adjunct to Main Kitchen called “Felipe’s salsa kitchen.” His specialty back then was SUPER hot salsa, rice, and beans. As a result, the first food at Kid Village was, you guessed it, salsa, beans, and rice. Of course, Felipe got a lot of feedback about the spice in his food being way too hot. It took a few years, but the spice eventually was left out of the food. If you’ve ever heard Felipe say, “We do not cook spicy food here at Kid Village,” it’s because once upon a time his food was also too hot. Still, this particular legacy lives on in that the primary foods served at Kiddie Village are rice and beans. (Hey, where’s the salsa, ya’ll??)
At some point after Felipe became involved the name changed to Kiddie Village.
Kiddie Village started serving food at a time when a few large kitchens were just starting to branch out on their own (i.e. the Hare Krishnas). At that time the gatherings were getting bigger and Main Kitchen couldn’t handle the numbers. Some of these kitchens–like Kid Village–got their food from Main Supply, but most brought their own. In a gathering environment that was quickly growing and expanding, Kiddie Village had a reputation of being a place that usually had food–a place you could get fed.
Starting in the early 80s, Felipe spent over 30 years keeping Kiddie Village alive and well. It mattered to him that it continued and that there was always a safe, clean place for kids and their parents to come to at a gathering. It didn’t matter which state or where in the US the gathering was being held–he would show up with the kitchen in his bus. And frankly, nothing could stop him from getting that kitchen up and running–not heart attacks, not snake bites, not snow storms…you name it and Felipe was always there early, working hard. He was also a master at drawing people in and giving them jobs. Over the years, a long-standing crew developed and many of the people you now see working at Kiddie Village have been there one or two decades, sometimes even more.
A few years ago, the kitchen realized that a team effort would be needed to go forward in the long term and a core crew came together. The few stipulations for being in that core group were 1) being committed to seeing Kiddie Village continue to happen, and 2) having a vehicle that could tow a trailer. It had nothing to do with their status in the kitchen, what a great leader they were, or how good their food was. They just had to have a vehicle. As it turned out, each of the people in that core group was from a different part of the US, so they divided up the nation into quarters and each individual or couple agreed to bottom-line Kiddie Village if the gathering ended up in their quadrant.
Now the group’s matured and everyone’s pitched in money to buy the KV trailer and to do the repairs. Ever since then, only one of their group has dropped out. The rest have made every gathering (with one exception). Even though they now live in different parts of the nation than where they were in when they divided up the nation, they still stick to the original arrangement.
“Kid Village has gone from a single driving entity, who was actually behind the force of will and character that has driven this thing forward for over 30 years, to a group of people who have decided to take it on collectively.”
Currently the vibe of the group is to create a Kiddie Village that is self-sustainable on its own, that is able to have all its own equipment. Every item that is now bought for Kid Village, belongs only to Kiddie Village, not to any specific individual. It’s now a truly collaborative enterprise where no one person owns anything but everyone contributes. The hope is that Kiddie Village will continue long into the future.
Like with most kitchens, every year is different. Some years they’ve had massive bakeries. For many years there was always fresh herbal tea available made by Sharon. For over a decade hotcakes would always be on the grill for breakfast. Still, while many things ebb and flow, some things do remain the same, including the annual Kid’s Talent Show, Rock N’ Roll Spaghetti, Everbody’s Birthday (where lots of cakes are made and everybody gets to celebrate their birthdays), and Ice Cream in the Woods.
Have any stories about Kiddie Village or Kiddie City? Tell us about them!
[Disclaimer, this post was made from the oral histories of a number of different people. To the best of my ability I’ve verified dates and people, but as most people remember things differently from each other, there is a margin of error.]