“Every year they dye the Chicago River green, and it stays that way all year ’round.”
As you’re making your drunken St. Patrick’s Day plans this weekend, be sure to schedule a little Chicago tradition into your day. The famous Chicago River dyeing will take place on Saturday, March 16 at 10 a.m.
If you’re watching the dyeing of the river, you’re in for a shock: the dye itself is orange, and it stays bright orange even after it hits the water. It takes a few minutes for it to turn that perfect green.
So how did the tradition start? In 1961, when a plumber was using a special dye to find leaks in the river, it was discovered that this dye was the perfect shade of Irish green. Mike Butler and the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers have been in charge of dyeing the river ever since.
The dye is completely safe, but they won’t tell you exactly what they use. (I read somewhere that they use 40 pounds of vegetable dye, but I have no idea what that actually means.) Many cities have tried to replicate the tradition, but nobody gets it quite right.
The actual dye is spread between Michigan Avenue on the west and Columbus Drive on the east, so the best place to watch is the Michigan Avenue bridge. Get there early, though, because it fills up quick.