Rotary Lights turns Riverside Park into a winter wonderland for the 27th year

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Rotary Lights is back in full swing for its 27th year in La Crosse.

Before the lights turn on, the excitement is real along Main Street for the parade.

“We wanted to make sure we came early to get a spot,” Holmen resident Allise Depetro said.”

But the real joy happens when millions of lights turn Riverside Park into a winter wonderland.

Eight-year-old Collin Greeman came from Indiana just to see the Rotary Lights.

“What are you most excited about?,” reporter Tyler Job asked.

“The big tree,” Greeman said.

The festivity is in the air.

“I am feeling pretty festive, indeed,” Rotary Lights president Pat Stephens said.

Stephens says some old favorites are back this year, including the ice skating rink, Santa’s gift shop, and Santa himself.

After talking to Santa, your kids get a free candy cane and Santa button.

But if you’re hoping they can sit on his lap, Stephens says your children will have to wait for another year.

“Hopefully we can get back to the lap next year,” Stephens said.

New this season is All-Abilities Night, which occurs this upcoming Monday, Nov. 29.

“We’re going to tame down the display to make it comfortable for those people that do have a concern with that,” Stephens said.

But the main mission for Rotary Lights is feeding the hungry across the region.

Over the years, organizers have accepted millions of non-perishable food items.

And this season, Stephens says there’s a possibility Rotary Lights will cross five million food item donations.

“That’s a lot of canned goods, let me tell you,” Stephens said.

It’s a celebration that can’t happen without the community’s support.

“We’re cold,” Depetro said. “But we’re excited.”

If you didn’t make it out to Riverside Park tonight, no worries.

Rotary Lights is open every day through New Year’s Eve.

Riverside Park is open from 5 to 10 p.m. on most nights, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (5-9 p.m.), and New Year’s Eve (5 p.m.-1 a.m.).

Stephens says because vandals stole thousands of dollars worth of electrical equipment last month, there is extra security for this year’s celebration.

If you would like to volunteer, Rotary Lights can use your help. Click here for more information.