History

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 14th Annual Ugly Sweater 5k will be virtual this year to keep everyone safe! Participants can run or walk a 5k Wednesday, December 2 thru Sunday, December 12th and log their time. The trails will be lit Friday, December 4th and Saturday, December 5th from 4:00 - 8:00 pm for the community to enjoy! 

A post race award ceremony will be recorded and posted on social media. Prizes will be given to the overall champions and to the age group winners. A ugly sweater contest will be hosted on social media so you can still join in on the fun!

The Ugly Sweater 5k is meant to be a family friendly event, as well as a competitive race. Entry fees are affordable: $15 per person and free for children under 12 year of age with a canned food donation which can be dropped off at Rotary Lights or a local food pantry or little free pantry.

The Cause

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

Locally, in 2019, RAH is partnering with the La Crosse Park and Rec. Department, Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Mississippi Valley Conservancy, and several other organizations to improve animal and plant life habitat as well as building and maintaining eco-friendly, sustainable recreation trails in and around the Upper Hixon Forrest and Zoerb Prairie areas.

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 schoolchildren 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, the Club was able to provide materials and supplies for an English as a Second Language program in Potrerillos Arriba, Panama.

In 2015, the Club was able to complete the building of 3 classrooms for the Patewo Primary Schools in Tororo, Uganda in Africa. The Club 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. And at the end of last school year, for the first time ever, 100% of the students in the highest grade in the primary school, passed all of their classes and moved on to secondary school.

Race Results

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