Storm causes tens of thousands of dollars in damages to La Crosse’s Rotary Lights

The Rotary Lights will be closed Thursday night.
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 2:23 PM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - A popular winter attraction in La Crosse is suffering another setback this year.

In October, vandals caused over $10,000 worth of damage when they cut cords on nearly two dozen electrical pedestals, which police said they believe those responsible for the damage were intending to strip the wires for the copper inside of them.

Despite that act of vandalism, the 27th Annual Rotary Lights celebration opened on Nov. 26 with a parade, thanks in part to the community’s effort in rallying to help repair the lights. Now, the Rotary Lights organization is dealing with a larger issue caused by the severe storms that came through the Midwest on Wednesday.

The Rotary Lights, which were scheduled to run through New Year’s Eve, are off again Thursday night due to significant damage to most of the park. The display was closed Wednesday ahead of the storms for the first time in over 26 years.

We have sustained damage last night. At this time we are unsure when we will be able open again. If you would like to donate you can do so at

Posted by Rotary Lights, La Crosse on Thursday, December 16, 2021

Pat Stephens, Rotary Lights president, said they aren’t sure about when they’ll able to put on a display again because of the damage done to the display.

“We’ve had to disassemble, actually destroy, our igloo, which was our northside heating area,” Stephens detailed. “Our entertainment area, it looks like the tent’s not going to be salvageable either, and our mega-tree, which is one of the center pieces of our whole display, we’re still talking about whether or not we can save pieces or parts of that as well.”

While he couldn’t put an exact dollar amount on the losses, Stephens estimates that the damages are around $40,000 to $50,000.

With Rotary Lights being forced to close two days in a row, and the holiday season nearing its end, Stephens is determined to get the display back up and running.

“The last two weeks of December are usually some of our most generous times to collect food for the food pantries,” Stephens explained. “If we’re not in operation, those are the ones that are going to suffer.”

Dozens of community members are stepping up to help with repairs, looking to salvage whatever they can ahead of Christmas next weekend.

“I put a call out this morning, I said all hands on deck, anybody that could make it down I would really appreciate it,” Stephens said. “We’ve got a great core of volunteers that are down here now and everybody feels the same way, let’s get it done.”

Stephens hopes to get Rotary Lights back open on Friday night.

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