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Rotary Lights building new Santa sleigh

The 26th year of the Christmas lights display will take place this winter
Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 5:32 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -

Christmas is less than five months away, but even with COVID-19 hitting western Wisconsin, the crew over at Rotary Lights is already working on this year’s display.

This winter marks the 26th year of Rotary Lights at Riverside Park and organizers say the event is still on and needed after the year of cancellations and unknowns.

“I think Rotary Lights is needed in the community more this year than ever before,” said Pat Stephens, Rotary Lights president. “I think the whole community needs something to be happy and joyous about and it’s always special that time of year anyway so we’re going to do everything possible to make sure Rotary Lights does happen.”

Over 3 million lights are strung each winter and one of a kind animated displays placed throughout the park.

One popular photo spot each year is Santa’s sleigh, but the one which had been used was deteriorating. So, this season Rotary Lights is giving it an upgrade.

“The old sleigh was gifted to us by the folks at Valley View Mall when they changed Christmas displays out there and we used it,” Stephens added. “It was built for the indoors and with some proper prepping we were able to get almost 15 years of use out of it.”

The new sleigh is 13 feet long, six feet wide and nine feet high from the ground.

While the exact cost is still being determined, the community is helping fund the project.

“The lumber was donated by Badger Corrugating [and] was close to a thousand dollars worth of lumber,” said Terry Slabeck, the sleigh head carpenter.

The new sleigh will also be fiberglassed, painted red and finished in October.

“When we are done with the sleigh, the sleigh should last for 25-30 years,” Slabeck said.

Rotary Lights has meetings with the La Crosse County Health Department to discuss any changes needing to be made this winter.

60 percent of the event’s traffic is vehicles, so while Santa visits and carriage rides may need to be postponed, the event will take place.

“We have some exciting things coming up this year too including our first ever hologram that we’re going to have at the park which I think will go over very well,” Stephens said.

If interested in volunteering or donating to Rotary Lights, click here.

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