St. Patrick's Day Turns Chicago's River Green St. Patrick's Day Turns Chicago's River Green

St. Patrick’s Day Turns Chicago’s River Green

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green river in Chicago for St. Patrick's Day

Chicago is known for many things – shopping, sports and food, just to name a few. But it’s also famous for dyeing its main waterway bright green in honor of the patron saint of Ireland.

The St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Chicago date back to 1843. And in step with a 45-year tradition that started by accident, the Chicago River is dyed green for the event.

As the story goes, in 1961, Stephen Bailey, along with the plumbers union, ran into a local plumber who was using a green dye to track waste leakage into the river. The dye used today isn’t that particular type, but Chicago locals enjoy the tradition just the same. The emerald green color is identical to the greens of Ireland from where it got its name, The Emerald Isle.

The biodegradable dye will spread throughout the river at 10:45 a.m., and the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade kicks off at noon. Highlights of the parade include marchers, floats, bagpipers and more.

For more information, visit

Photo via elwarren on Flickr

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Updates from the Illinois Department of Public Health