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Through pandemics, high winds, Rotary Lights in La Crosse comes back year after year



Floats, fireworks, Santa Claus, and millions of Christmas lights were on display for the start of La Crosse’s annual Rotary Lights festival on Friday.

This is the 28th year of the riverfront celebration, which draws thousands of spectators, and has collected about 4 million food items for local pantries since its beginning in 1995.

The lighted snowmen and reindeer are favorite attractions near the Riverside bandshell.

The traditional holiday parade with decorated floats wound through downtown La Crosse into Riverside Park, and the Coulee Chordsmen sang seasonal tunes before and after Santa threw the giant switch to set off the fireworks, followed by all the lighted displays going live.

Kids and parents line up to see Santa in his holiday house at the park.

After the lighting ceremony, there was a little traffic congestion at the entry point into the park.

Roadblocks were set on State Street just before the park entrance, and starting this year, cars have to come in and out by way of Front Street to the south of State Street.

Drivers lined up on Front Street to enter Riverside Park on opening night of Rotary Lights.

Rotary Lights continues every night through New Year’s Eve. Last year, high winds caused damage in the park, which shut down the display for two nights in mid-December, before dozens of volunteers helped get thing running again.

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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