Rotary Lights leader, volunteers vow to rebound from theft of $10,000 worth of power cords

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — For the 27th year, preparation for Riverside Park’s annual Rotary Lights setup is underway, but vandals set the process back.

Volunteers began moving the electrical pedestals needed to power the display to Riverside Park on Friday. But over the weekend, vandals cut and stole about $10,000 worth of cords.

Rotary Lights is a La Crosse area tradition.

“We’re into our second or third generations now, as we start our 27th year. So it means a lot to a lot of people,” said Rotary Lights President Pat Stephens.

Volunteers who find joy in creation power the tradition.

“I’ll put it in the park and I’ll watch the kids when they pass in front of it. If some kid looks at it and he goes ‘ahh!’ that’s how I’ll know it’s a success,” Rotary Lights volunteer Leo Chaput said.

Helpers who also find joy in helping others.

“Last year, we were right around 300,000 food items that were distributed to 16 other food pantries in the area,” Stephens said.

Stephens has a theory for why the lines were stolen.

“We’re thinking that the purpose of it was to get the copper that’s in the lines themselves,” Stephens said.

This loss sets back both progress and the club’s mission.

“A lot of hours that will go into repowerizing those pedestals,” Stephens said.

But Stephens hopes a new order of cords comes in quickly, and knows the team of volunteers will get it done.

Chaput agrees.

“It’s not gonna stop us. The train is rolling, and we’re gonna keep it on the track,” Chaput said.

Stephens said he needs volunteers with electrical experience to help rewire the pedestals. Rotary Lights also will take donations to help cover the costs.

You can find resources for both of those on their website.

Police were unable to recover video of the vandalism, Stephens said.

The club now has security at the park and has electrified the panels.

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