The La Crosse Rotary Lights began in 1995 as a cooperative effort between area Rotary Clubs and non-profit organizations as a way to celebrate the holidays and stock local food banks. It has grown to become the largest holiday display in the Midwest with over 2,000,000 lights decorating Riverside Park which overlooks the Mississippi River. While admission is free, the hundreds of thousands of people who visit each year have donated millions of food items and hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities.

In 2007, the River City Running Club volunteered to stage a race that would help people enjoy the festivities in a different way. The Rotary Lights Run began with the efforts of many club volunteers. In 2013, the Rotary Club of La Crosse - After Hours took over hosting the run and changed the name to the Ugly Sweater 5k. 

The 16th Annual Ugly Sweater 5k Presented by Emerj360 will be held in-person this year on Saturday, December 3rd, 2022! Packet pickup and same-day registration will begin at 3 pm at the Myrick Park Center. The race begins at 4:15 pm from Myrick Park where racers will run or walk through the beautifully lit La Crosse River Trails to Riverside Park. The race ends at Rotary Lights in Riverside Park. For those that can't join us in-person, there is a virtual option as well. 

The course is flat and fast, but the weather is always unknown so please plan accordingly. A post-race award ceremony is held in a heated tent in Rotary Lights with hot chocolate and tasty treats for participants, family, and friends. Trophies are given to the overall champions and awards are given to the age group winners. 

The Ugly Sweater 5k Presented by Emerj360 is meant to be a family-friendly event, as well as a competitive race. Entry fees are affordable: 

  • Children 10 and under: Free with a non-perishable food item
  • Ages 11-15: $15
  • Ages 16+: $30 before November 25; $35 after November 25; $40 same-day registration 
  • Virtual: $30

The Cause

The Rotary Club of La Crosse – After Hours (RAH) is excited to grow its service efforts to support communities locally AND internationally.

Locally, RAH is active in the community volunteering with Mobile Meals, food giveaways with WAFER and the Hunger Task Force, Highway Cleanup, and many other services events. Most recently, in partnership with the non-profit Sleep in Heavenly Peace, RAH was able to purchase supplies and build over 40 beds for local kids who don't have one. We have continued to help build and maintain eco-friendly, sustainable recreation trails in and around the Upper Hixon Forrest and Zoerb Prairie areas. Our club has donated funds to purchase a van for The Good Fight; raised money to purchase backpack and school supplies for students in the area; and helped raise money for the St. Clare Health Mission Mobile Clinic.  

In 2018, 2019, and 2020 in partnership with local high school students we have been installing filters to bring consistent clean water to more than 3,000 elementary school children living in the Yucatan jungle of Mexico. A portion of the proceeds from the 2017 Ugly Sweater 5K helped fund a women’s health project in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua. The program will assist in the early diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer, the major killer of women under the age of 50 in Nicaragua.

In 2016, RAH was able to provide materials and supplies for an English as a Second Language program in Potrerillos Arriba, Panama.

In 2015, RAH was able to complete the building of 3 classrooms for the Patewo Primary Schools in Tororo, Uganda in Africa. RAH was also able to provide new bicycles, desks, textbooks, sporting equipment, and school supplies for the school. With these three new classrooms, 700 students and nine teachers now have one classroom per grade. 

Race Results

2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013 - 2014 - 2015 - 2016 - 2017 - 2018 - 2019 - 2020 - 2021 - 2022 

Event Photos