MARSHFIELD (WAOW) – The Rotary Winter Wonderland is one of the most popular holiday light shows in Wisconsin, drawing thousands of visitors each year while at the same time helping feed the hungry.
Dale Smith of Spencer, the chairperson for the extravaganza of more than a million lights, works year-round on the project, and for those volunteer efforts, he is the Jefferson Award winner for March.
"It is so much fun when you see the young people who go through the displays," Smith said. "Their eyes light up and the ooh and ahh."
The Rotary Clubs in Marshfield started the light show 12 years ago at Wildwood Park.
The six-week exhibit is free, but food and monetary donations are accepted to feed the hungry.
"That is our mission. We feed a lot of people," Smith said.
In 2017, visitors donated 52,400 food items and $74,600, which will help dozens of food pantries in central Wisconsin.
The project relies on thousands of volunteers to plan, set up, greet visitors, take donations and dismantle the displays.
Newsline 9 met Smith and some other volunteers recently as they plowed through the snow taking down the displays, all of which will eventually be checked for needed repairs.
Roy Covert says the work is worth it, even in the cold, because of the joy the dazzling lights bring. "It is a very, very good thing for the community. They just love it."