Christmas in the Garden

One of the thing we folks of a certain age do a lot is think about things used to look like and what used to be on the corner way back when.

So, heading back to my hometown of Janesville for the Christmas Lights at Rotary Gardens fueled both primal urges.

The building used as the Garden's office and gift shop is so old the only condition I recall it in was abandoned.  It was part of the Wilcox Sand and Gravel

Next door is Lions Beach, the city's public park swimming hole. Given my ineptitude when it comes to swimming, it won't surprise you I wasn't a customer.

Close to the beach is what we used to call Atlas Pit.  Part of an old gravel mine, it was deep and filled with water.  It was a place anglers went to fish and high schoolers and older "kids" hung out.

Now it's Kiwanis Pond.  It's a lovely city park with places to picnic and much more user-friendly space to launch a boat or fish from a pier.


The area now called Rotary Gardens I recall being a big empty space.  A vacant lot with city equipment stored there.

I left Janesville in 1981 for college.  It was 1988 when the idea to revive the land was born and nurtured by the city's Rotary Clubs.

Completely funded by gifts, there is no tax support for what is certainly one of Janesville's crown jewels.

This was my first trip.

According to the Rotary Gardens website, they first hosted a holiday light tour in 1997.  It's come a long way!

The light show continues the next three weekends, closed Christmas Day, and is worth a trip and a $5 admission.

Thousands of half-gallon milk cartons act as luminaries which guide the way around the park and the picturesque pond.

Lights strung through limbs of towering trees create a magical quality to the display and a great sense of wonder and mystery. The strings create a glowing veil and tunnel for tourists.

The evening of our visit, the park was hopping.  Thousands of guests began arriving for the adventure before the gate opened at 4 and I'm guessing were still oohing and awwing when the gate closed at 8.

The 370,000 lights create stunning scenes.

There are design features and lights showing off the Garden's usual stars - trees, bushes, and land in this award-winning park.


Inside the visitor center, in addition to the gift shop is a concession stand to provide a snack or warm-up (if we get winter cold) and an impressive train display to delight young and old.

It's a pleasant walk; whether it's with your date, your family, or your camera.

I suggest you make it part of your Christmas holiday tradition.