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Rotary Lights on pause because of damage from high winds



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.”

The ice castle at Rotary Lights was blown off its base, leaving chairs and tables behind

“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 Riverside bandshell appears undamaged by the wind, and the live reindeer are still in their pen at the park.

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).


A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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