Federal workers affected by the government shutdown and their families can find refuge Saturday at the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park.
The picnic is open to workers with a federal ID and family members younger than 18, co-sponsor Forest Williams said.
The free event will run from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Aspen Picnic Ground in Sunset Park, 2601 E. Sunset Road.
A self-proclaimed “RV explorer,” Williams, 52, is sponsoring the event with Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson and NV Jets, a private jet charter.
Federal workers may be fretting over the shutdown, and that stress can affect their families as well, Williams said.
“Everyone’s feeding and helping the workers right now,” he said, “but this is for the families.”
NV Jets is paying to rent bounce houses for children, and Williams is encouraging attendees to bring balls and sports equipment so they can play on the field at the picnic area.
Williams is covering the $7,000 to $10,000 food budget to provide free food at the picnic. He’s relying on Costco to make 2,000 hamburger patties for the picnic, with another 1,000 in reserve if he has to feed more people than the 2,000 attendees he’s expecting.
“The thing is, I don’t know how many people are going to show up,” he said. “But I’m gonna feed ’em all.”
Williams said he was inspired by a friend in Maryland who opened her home to feed hungry federal workers.
“And that got me thinking about the big picture,” he said.
Williams called Gibson’s office to rent space at the park, and Gibson decided to become a co-sponsor.
“I think it’s a worthy exercise,” Gibson said. “No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, it’s the federal workers who aren’t receiving paychecks that are in the middle.”
Gibson said he plans to drop by the picnic as well.
Lisa Marie’s Kitchen, a local catering company, also answered the call when Williams asked for help.
“Everything seems to just fall into place. Any time I needed something, I got a phone call. Las Vegas has been great,” Williams said.
Mark Rollans and his wife, Lisa Marie Solis-Rollans, volunteered to lend their time, grills and tables to the picnic.
“We didn’t have anything to do this weekend, and we heard it was for a good cause, so we decided we’d help out,” Rollans said.
Lisa Marie’s started catering three years ago and will open a brick-and-mortar location in Henderson’s Water District this year.
“We found that in being in the kitchen, we could be a part of our community,” Rollans said. “We just thought this was a great way to pay it forward.
Williams, who is originally from New York, usually spends his time traveling the country in his RV with his dog, Kira, and George, his 19-year-old cat. Williams said he volunteers wherever he can and has traversed about 40,000 miles in two years.
When he’s got a cellphone signal, Williams manages enVisionWeb Development, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which mainly provides services to nonprofit organizations at cost. He said he used to build websites before he became a professional road-tripper.
Williams said he is still looking for picnic volunteers, including character actors and people who can help out with bounce houses or serve food. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact him at 786-859-1451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pizza and Hockey
After Saturday’s picnic, workers with a valid federal ID can get free tickets to the UNLV vs. Colorado State hockey game at 7:30 p.m. at City National Arena, 1550 S Pavilion Center Drive, Las Vegas.
Free Papa John’s pizza also will be provided from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. before the puck drops.