It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, which means celebrations of all kinds. While some enjoy watching parades and dressing in green, others relish in imitating Irish cuisine and drink. But Chicagoans are known for their crazy manifestations of Irish pride. Locals watch every year as the Chicago River becomes the ideal shade of shamrock green. However, how did this custom start? Let’s talk about the origins of the custom of colouring the Chicago River green and look at several techniques for accomplishing so.
Origins of Dying the Chicago River Green
The custom of dyeing the Chicago River green dates back more than fifty years, even if locals may not be aware to it. Surprisingly, this wasn’t originally intended to be a fun way for the community to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The Chicago mayor embarked on a mission in 1961 to identify the source of the sewage flowing into the Chicago River. The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union employed tiny amounts of green dye to find leaks in the pipes in order to ascertain this. Many believed that the hue was akin to the green shamrock that is connected to St. Patrick’s Day. For this reason, in 1962, the union chose to mark the holiday by dumping a significant amount of this dye into the Chicago River! Since then, a lot of locals and visitors alike have grown to adore this annual ritual.
How It’s Achieved
Despite the fact that it appears like a massive endeavour, completing it is not too difficult. Two boats and a small group of labourers are all that are needed to spread the dye throughout the river. The dye itself is supplied in powder form, which needs to be applied by hand. From beginning to end, the complete operation only takes roughly two hours. National Public Radio Chicago reports that two motorboats are currently spreading the orange powder. The river turns entirely green in a matter of minutes as one person dumps the powder and the other stirs the water. The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union employees are responsible for thousands of people’s annual enjoyment of the green river.
When Does It Take Place?
The Chicago River is usually dyed green by workers right before the city’s yearly St. Patrick’s Day parade. Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on March 17th, this happens. This is the only time residents will be able to enjoy the green river, even though there may be other celebrations going on throughout the city on other dates. But make sure to get down to the river about the time the parade begins if you want to see it up close. The river starts to revert to its natural colour after just a few hours of the green dye being applied.
Is It Safe to Dye the Chicago River Green?
Without a sure, some people who are learning about this for the first time will be worried about the practice’s safety. It’s safe to dye the Chicago River green, even though it appears very bright. The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union first utilised a chemical-based colour, but in 1966 they switched to a dye derived from vegetables. It does not endanger humans, land animals, or marine life as a result.
While a significant portion of the community finds enjoyment in this custom and regards it as a harmless and enjoyable way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, others are less enthused. Critics frequently say that dying a river encourages pollution. Although the Chicago River’s natural colour is made of vegetables and is generally regarded as safe, there are rising worries that individuals may create their own dangerous dyes and accidentally release them into public areas. But nothing extremely harmful to the environment has happened as of yet.
This event is a must-see whether you’re a Chicago resident or just passing through the region on St. Patrick’s Day. More people participate in this annual celebration as it has grown in popularity over time. It’s actually a bit of a national phenomenon. As Chicago’s influence spreads, other cities have started to colour their own little bodies of water! This custom has also been adopted by Tampa, Florida, and San Antonio, Texas, and many more are certain to follow.