For the first time in its 27-year history, Rotary Lights in La Crosse had to shut down for a night on Wednesday because of the threat of high winds. And the display in Riverside Park will be closed until further notice, because of the severe damage that occurred when the winds finally came.
The plastic igloo and the ice castle got the worst of it, and event president Pat Stephens is waiting for a cost estimate on the damage, which he calls “extensive.”
“We’ve gotta make sure everything is secure and in good shape,” said Stephens on Thursday morning, while examining the damage to the holiday display. “Obviously, safety is a main concern.”
The “ice castle” tent was blown off its base, leaving tables and chairs knocked over, and the plastic igloo at the north end of Riverside Park was blown up against a lamppost.
Stephens doesn’t know when the park will reopen to visitors.
“We can open up and people can still enjoy it,” he says. “It’s not gonna be the spectacular display I think that we’ve had in the past. But we hope they still come down, because there’s a lot of food pantries that are very dependent on what we take in, in these last two-and-a-half weeks.”
Rotary Lights routinely runs from Thanksgiving weekend through New Year’s Eve, collecting food donations and money for area pantries. Helicopter rides over the park had been scheduled to start tonight (Thursday).