The annual Rotary Lights display in La Crosse begins next week, and volunteers have been working to set up the lights in Riverside Park since October. Tonight, Fox 25/48’s Erin O’Brien gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how the displays are created.

Riverside Park is looking more like a winter spectacle every day, but if you travel several blocks south, you’ll find even more activity. The warehouse is not only where millions of lights are stored during the summer, but it’s also where volunteers create the magic. 

Leo Chaput has been volunteering for the Rotary Lights for thirteen years, working all day, every day each holiday season to make the animated light displays.

“Once I have the design all laid out on the floor, I bend some round metal, that’s like this one here, quarter inch round metal, I bend it to match the design on the floor and I weld every piece together, then I paint it, and color code it, and then I try to get some volunteers to help put some of the rope lights on here and every time they change color you have to have a special connector to keep the power on.”

Each animation takes about five days to make from start to finish.

A small number of volunteers actually work in the warehouse year round to make sure that all the animated lights displays are working properly.

Chaput says every one of the thousands of volunteers is vital to the lights’ success.

“It’s important to have some volunteers that are willing to do anything. That’s what Rotary Lights is all about.”

He says he keeps coming back to volunteer because of the impact the lights have on the community each year.

“I look at all the food that we collect like last year we collected 225 or 250 thousand units of food for the food shelves, and at the same time when I make these animations I go in the park during Rotary Lights and I watch the kids when they see these animations and when their jaw drops and they go “wow” I know that’s the satisfaction we need to keep on going.”

In La Crosse, Erin O’Brien, Fox 25 48 News at 9.

The Rotary Lights display begins the Friday after Thanksgiving.