Chicago really goes all out for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations — the Chicago River is even dyed completely green for the holiday! Find out how the tradition started, what they use to change the color, and MORE right here.
For more than 50 years, the Chicago River has been dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day! The color change doesn’t actually happen on March 17 every year, but rather, goes down on the Saturday closest to the big day, which in 2017 will be March 18. This tradition actually began by accident when plumbers were checking illegal pollution in the body of water with fluorescein dye, which changed the color.
The Environmental Protection Agency eventually found that fluorescein, which is oil-based, was harmful to the river, so the formula now contains a mixture of powdered vegetable dye, with the exact contents kept closely guarded. The powder is actually colored orange until its mixed with water, and a parade organizer once said that sharing the ingredients of the formula would be the same thing as “telling where the leprechaun hides its gold.” This is VERY serious, you guys!
The river dyeing coincides with Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, and begins in the early morning, just after 9:00 a.m. Members of the Plumbers Union are responsible for cruising into the river on boats to spread the solution, and in just 45 minutes, the entire river turns green! The change doesn’t last long though, with the color only sticking around for about five hours.
Last year, the city used its river dyeing skills for another momentous occasion — the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series! It was the team’s first World Series win in over 100 years, so it was obviously appropriate to dye the river blue for the rally parade afterward, right?!
HollywoodLifers, what do you think of the tradition of dying the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day? Will you ever check it out in person?