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The Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day

The dyeing of the Chicago River has been a big annual celebration since 1962. The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union starts the big task of pouring 50 pounds of dye into a quarter-mile stretch of the river, from Columbus Dr. to State St – The exact mixture of the dye is a bit of a secret, but it’s known to be an orange-red, vegetable-based powder.


Credit: Insta/carolsue_64

You could make a movie about Chicago St. Patrick’s Day. From the annual parade, dyeing of the Chicago river green, and of course, the morning to night drinking around the Windy City. Even though St. Patrick’s Day falls on March 17th, Chicagoans celebrate the Irish culture, history, food, and it’s people all month long. In fact, the history of revelries dates back to 1843 with the first Irish parade.


The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers, Local 130 have been responsible for turning the Chicago River green for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebration. One would ask how this is different from the rest of the year when the river is always a murky shade of green. The difference is both significant and breathtaking because the color green is identical to the greens of Ireland from where it got its name The Emerald Isle. And yes, all the men & women on the boats are ALL Chicago Plumbers!

Back in 1961 Stephen Bailey, the Business Manager of Chicago Plumbers Local 130 was approached by one of his plumber’s who was wearing some white overalls, they knew this only because they could see some of the original color. These overalls had been mostly stained or dyed a perfect shade of green, an Irish green to better describe it. It was when Stephen Bailey asked how the overalls got this way, that they discovered that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned green, not just any color green, but the perfect Irish color green. That’s when Mr. Bailey bellowed, call THE MAYOR……we are going to DYE THE CHICAGO RIVER GREEN!

As the late Stephen Bailey stated, “the road from Chicago to Ireland is marked in green. From the Chicago River to the Illinois River, then to the Mississippi, up the Gulf Stream and across the Atlantic you can see the beautiful green enter the Irish Sea, clearly marking the way from Chicago to Ireland.”

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