For more than two decades, Rotary Lights have taken over Riverside Park in the winter. Tonight, as we continue our Hometown Holidays look at the sights and sounds in western Wisconsin, Fox 25/48's Zach Prelutsky takes us to this year’s La Crosse Rotary Lights.
After a Rotarian member visited a small college campus in Oklahoma more than two decades ago the idea for the rotary lights in La Crosse was born. Now in its 23rd year, it is one of the hallmarks of the winter season in the area.
With success comes imitation as fourteen different community displays have been inspired by the Rotary Lights. But then again nothing can compare.
"They go away just shaking their head. We could never do something of this size, we're going to start a lot smaller and see how that goes. And that's the way we did 23 years ago as well, started small but it’s grown every year."
And grown more than many people thought. The first year there were 250,000 lights hanging and since then there have been around 4 million lights purchased throughout the years.
But the Rotary Lights are more than just a holiday display. Coming to the park is free, but food and cash donations are suggested to help various charities. And this year Stephens says they expect to collect over 300,000 food items.
Over 3,000 volunteers from over 100 non-profit organizations help get everything ready from the lights to the ice skating rink to Santa’s house and truly turn a part of Riverside Park into something everyone in La Crosse can be proud of.
"Everybody seems to enjoy Rotary Lights. It's one of those icons of the community right now. When the big tree goes up in October everybody knows it's time for Rotary Lights and I love to hear people talk about it because they have such a sense of ownership about it, even if they've never helped or been a part of it, it's still kind of their display which is kind of neat."
Rotary Lights will be lit and running until January first.
In La Crosse, Zach Prelutsky, Fox 25/48 First News at Nine.
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