Huge Turnout for Warm St. Patrick's Day Fun

Two annual traditions kicked off the downtown St. Patrick's Day celebration

By Alexandra Clark
|  Sunday, Mar 18, 2012  |  Updated 11:23 AM CDT
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NBC5 Michelle Relerford has the full recap of the St. Patrick's Day Parade downtown on Saturday.

NBC5 Michelle Relerford has the full recap of the St. Patrick's Day Parade downtown on Saturday.

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Watch the Chicago River Turn Green

The 2012 annual tradition of dying the Chicago River a vibrant green on St. Patrick's Day began with Breast Cancer survivors rowing to honor Maggie Daley. Then the river is dyed a vibrant green to kick off the St. Patrick's Day celebration downtown.
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The strangely warm St. Patrick's Day celebrations drew tens of thousands on Saturday, turning downtown Chicago into a sea of green.

Saturday morning was the kickoff to Chicago's signature Irish events, starting with the dyeing the Chicago River.

Thousands gathered along the river at 10 a.m. to see the water change bright green. About 45 pounds of environmentally-friendly dye was added to the river from a motorboat to achieve the vibrant color.

Before the event began, a group of a breast cancer survivors dressed in green with pink caps rowed though the river to honor Maggie Daley.

This year's unseasonably warm weather resulted in a huge turnout. Organizers had said they anticipated close to 50 thousand people for the event.  Far more actually showed up.

After the River had become a vibrant shade of shamrock, spectators then headed south for the St. Patrick's Day Parade.  It kicked off at noon on Columbus Drive and Balbo Avenue.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel marched in the front line with his daughters and Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny.  It was the first time in more than two decades that former Mayor Richard M. Daley did not take part.

Mayor Emanuel was joined by a bevvy of politicians, including Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin.

And of course, there were plenty of floats, marching bands, bagpipes, and little girls doing Irish jigs -- all on an unusually bright, warm St. Patrick's Day in Chicago.

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