Night falls sooner and sooner in late November and the days leading up to Christmas, but things are looking brighter on the east side of La Salle.
And taking a drive through Rotary Park, once or multiple times can lift your spirits while also raising funds for the park and some local schools.
City crews have spent recent days erecting and plugging in lights displays for the Celebration of Lights, a steadily growing event in Rotary Park.
In 2014, the fledgling event brought in $12,274 to go for city debt payments and improvements in the new park north of U.S. 6 and west of Interstate 39 and Troy Grove Blacktop. By 2015, the number of lighting displays — most of them sponsored by businesses and families — grew to about 120 and funds raised surpassed $33,500.
The nightly drive-through lights show raised more than $50,000 for the park in each of the past two years, and the number of displays is estimated to reach 275 this year.
It doesn’t cost money to go through the celebration in the park that opens Nov. 15, but all visitors are asked at the gate to make donations. On Tuesdays, local school groups volunteer to collect. If you help them fill the bucket, a percentage of the donation goes to the school group’s cause.
Donations help pay the electric bill during the show and have helped with park improvements and new baseball diamond lights. One year, the city donated more than $4,000 from the donations to help pay medical bills for a child who was struck by a vehicle on a city street.
The efforts by the city and display sponsors make a visit worthwhile now and when family gets together. Drive-through sightseers will notice additional creativity in the displays this year, and may notice new things on repeat trips.
We don’t know exactly how the city will use all proceeds from the event, but we’re hopeful a part of it either directly or indirectly can build toward opening up parkland and a lake to the west and northwest of the Celebration area.