I was going to save this post for Silent Sunday but decided not to wait. I don’t know what else to write about today, and furthermore, there is a story here besides the beauty of the lights.
For 26 years Riverside Park in La Crosse Wisconsin has been lit up by millions of tiny Christmas lights strung together to make huge displays. We’ve lived in the area for 21 years and seen this festival of lights and goodwill grow over that time.
The thousands of volunteers that make Rotary Lights possible come from all types of organizations and walks of life. Now, there are over three million lights. I believe the radio announcer said the lights are now all LED. You can choose to go through the park, either on foot or in your car. We’ve done both, but this year we stayed in our car.
Visiting the light display is free. However, free will monetary donations and non-perishable food items are encouraged and accepted. According to the brochure we were given as we drove in, the 25 year total number of food items collected has been 4,270, 399! Wow! The collected food is then shared with our local food pantries.
We’ve always taken food, usually an item or two for each member of our family. I don’t know why, but for some reason it seems more important than the money at this time of year. However, since I now have a slight amount of experience with non-profits, I know the donations of money are probably equally needed and greatly appreciated. Volunteers graciously take your donations and wish everyone a Happy Holiday season.
The Rotary Lights has added attractions over the years, as well. There is a live nativity, a memorial ice rink, a warming hut, and, of course, visits with Santa and Mrs. Clause. We had our photo taken there with the white bearded man himself, many years ago. There are decorated trees sponsored by smaller service groups, too. It’s always fun to see the creativity of the trees and displays.
Displays are made, repaired, set up and torn down, all with the help of volunteers. I believe I heard there were 3,400 volunteers this year for Rotary Lights! Local high schools get in on the action by helping to take lights down on New Year’s day. I know my oldest helped tear down lights for several years while he was in band. My middle son helped as well, years later when it was “his” turn. It is a great community effort that involve many organizations and individuals, alike.
For just over a month, the downtown traffic patterns in La Crosse are altered, and some nights, slowed as people line up to view the lights. Again, more volunteers are needed to help with traffic flow and keep things moving in the park.
Riverside Park, the setting for the Rotary Lights, is beautiful any time of year. Sitting on the edge of the Mississippi River, you can be inspired by the water, families enjoying the park, and individuals exercising. But, for a month at Christmas time, the park becomes a magical place filled with dazzling lights and music. It is hard not to be touched by the Christmas spirit when you visit. We live in a generous community, giving of their time, talents, money, and food. It makes me proud to know that there are so many in our community that care so much. Enjoy the lights!
For more information on the Rotary Lights in La Crosse, Wisconsin go to: https://www.rotarylights.org/