Federal worker Linda Fritz-Langston, a tax payer advocate, attend the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) Greig, 7, with his father Kevin, a TSA manager, take a photo with Las Vegas police mounted officers Mike Torsiello, left, and Maile Hanks, during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) John Rotellini, right, performs a trick for Ryan Greig, 7, with his father Kevin, a TSA manager, during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) Magallanes of Las Vegas gets a free haircut from Joshua Andres, student barber at Nevada‘s First Barber School, during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) Mello with Balloons With a Twist makes a balloon for Yesenia Chavez, 9, during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) Mello with Balloons With a Twist makes a balloon for a child during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) attend the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) Nic Lynn serves food during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) John Rotellini, right, performs a trick for Ryan Greig, 7, with his father Kevin, a TSA manager, during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) Greig, 7, with his father Kevin, a TSA manager, play games during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) Butler of North Las Vegas helps unload food during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Butler‘s husband is a TSA managers who has not received a paycheck during the government shut down. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal) Chris Enciso of Las Vegas helps unload food during the Open Up for Those Shut Down picnic at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The free event was created for families of government workers impacted by the shutdown. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

TSA manager Kevin Grieg hadn’t missed a day of work during the partial federal government shutdown. In fact, he worked overtime, despite not knowing when he would next be paid.

But for a few hours on Saturday under the warm Las Vegas sun at Sunset Park, 2601 E. Sunset Road, the financial hardship suffered during the 35-day shutdown was the least of his worries.

That’s because from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., federal government employees and their families enjoyed free food, games and entertainment at the south valley park — an event that came together in just nine days thanks to self-proclaimed “RV explorer” Forest Williams, Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson and London Kirkham, CEO of private jet charter NV Jets.

On Friday, to reopen the government for three weeks while the White House and Congress continue negotiations on border security, including the contentious issue of a border wall.

The agreement would allow 800,000 federal workers, including 3,500 in Nevada, to go back to work and to collect back pay following the 35-day government shutdown. While the shutdown is over for at least three weeks, it’s unclear how long it will take for affected workers to get their back pay.

“We’re really on a tight budget, so this is great,” Grieg said as his wife, Nicole, and their 7-year-old son Ryan, played a carnival game. “We don’t want to do anything because we don’t know when the next check is coming in.”

Saturday’s carnival games, face painters and balloon artists were donated by Michele Rothstein, CEO of Balloons with a Twist. She found out about the event just two days earlier, when Kirkham had reached out, seeking her company’s services.

“I had been looking for a way to give back to the federal workers affected by the shutdown,” she said, “so when London called, I got on it.”

But the idea really started earlier in the week with Williams, who said he was inspired by a friend in Maryland who opened her home to feed hungry federal workers. By Saturday, his vision had evolved into an event that spanned across the park’s entire Aspen picnic grounds.

While setting up at the park early Saturday, Williams said, a man approached him, curious about what he was doing.

“And when I told him, he pulled $10 out of his wallet and gave it to me,” Williams said, scratching his beard. “I mean, how cool is that? That’s really the spirit of what we’re doing here today.”

But, he said, without the help of Clark County and Gibson, “this event would have died on Monday.”

Williams had been struggling to find a venue for the event, but as soon as Gibson had heard about it, he said he jumped on it to ensure it would go on as planned.

“No matter what side we’re on, at the end of the day, all we can do is see if we can’t lessen the adverse impact on families,” Gibson said Saturday. “They’re our neighbors. They live here. So that’s what we got to do.”

Meanwhile, a couple of picnic tables away from Gibson, Linda Fritz-Langston, an employee of the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate Service, took her 8-year-old granddaughter out for a day at the park, thinking she’d find “just a couple small barbecues and some board games.”

“I think this is wonderful. I can’t believe someone would do this for us,” she said, holding a pink balloon animal twisted into the shape of a cat, while her granddaughter munched on lunch. “It’s overwhelming. Every dollar I can save counts. The community really came out and they’re helping.”

As families started to pour into the park for the event, Williams looked around, and said, “This was really a grassroots-type effort. It started with a few volunteers.”

“Now look at this,” he said.

Rio Lacanlale at or. Follow on Twitter.

2601 E. Sunset Road, Las Vegas

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