According to Dan O’Leary of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, “A modern day miracle occurs each year as part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebration when the Chicago River turns an incredible shade of Irish green.”
For the past 43 years the Chicago River transforms into a bright green shade that masks its typical murky green color. The story goes that Chicago plumber, Stephen M. Bailey was wearing white coveralls when he noticed that his pants were stained a perfect shade of bright green. This was the year the city began enforcing water pollution controls and Baily discovered the dye was used to detect leaks by turning the river a bright, bright green. He suggested to the authorities that the whole river be dyed for St. Patrick’s Day. Thus, the tradition to magically turn the river green was born.
One of the initial problems that they found was that there wasn’t a recipe for dying rivers green. Chicago was the first and only city to do it. In 1966, environmentalists claimed the parade committee was polluting the river because the dye was oil-based. Now Chicago uses 40 lbs of vegetable-based dye that is harmless to fish. The powder actually starts out orange and then turns green when it’s mixed in the water and produces a carpet of green for four or five hours.
Watch this amazing 60-second stop motion video of the greening of the Chicago River taken from the Wrigley building:
How does your town/village/city celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?