Rotary lights kicks off in La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)- A La Crosse tradition is back, bigger and better than ever.

Hundreds of people were in Riverside Park when Santa flipped the switch Friday evening on the 26th annual Rotary Lights display.

There are more than 3-millions lights and the display gets bigger and better every year.

Because of the pandemic, there was no parade or opening ceremony, but plenty of people drove or walked through the park on opening day.

New this year, Santa is inside his house, but he talks to kids through a window and sends treats down a tube outside.

There is also a live nativity scene and smores, which are individually wrapped this year as part of COVID-19 restrictions.

There is also a new hologram display.

While people enjoy seeing the lights, no one may be getting greater joy than Pat Stephens. He started Rotary Lights 26 years ago and says all these years later opening night never gets old. “We always get a big kick out of opening night and when Mother Nature makes it like this, it’s even more special. We have great foot traffic and great auto traffic and we have a lot of familes, which is what we like to see.”

Stephens and his team work year-round to make this happen.

The event is a huge benefit to our community for the people who walk through the display and others who benefit from it.

Rotary Lights is free, but they ask you to bring a non-perishable food donation or cash donation. Those gifts will be distributed to charities to help families put food on the table this holiday and year-round.

Rotary Lights is open every night until until 10 p.m. through New Year’s Eve.

And keep in mind, there is a new traffic flow to try to reduce congestion around the park.

Drivers should head south down Copeland Avenue, turning right onto 2nd street past the Oktoberfest grounds.

Traffic will then turn right at the intersection of 2nd and Vine Streets before looping back around to State Street.

All routes will be marked and La Crosse Police will be on hand to help drivers get into the park.