Every year since 1962, the Chicago River has been dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick’s day. Nowadays, both the dyeing and a big parade take place the Saturday before the 17th. (Next year, they’ll coincide when the 17th falls on a Saturday.) It’s a uniquely Chicago tradition that tips its hat to the central role the Irish have played in the city’s history.
For a few hours every year, the architectural landmarks that line the Chicago River acquire an aquatic front yard that’s as vibrant as the neon green relish of a genuine Chicago hot dog.
The actual dye is orange. It turns green when it’s churned into the water. The discovery of this phenomenom was made by members of Chicago’s pipefitters union back in 1962, and the union has been dyeing the river for St. Pat’s ever since.
The natural green of the river can be seen to the right, awaiting its transformation into the hypergreen to the left.
1962, over 100 pounds of dye were dumped into the river, leaving it green for days. Now, only 40 pounds are dispersed, but because the river was reversed to run backwards away from the lake, even one day later, the entire river for many blocks to the west remains a single shamrock-colored fairway.
Chicago’s mania for St. Patrick’s green is pervasive. Above is the fountain in Daley Plaza.