The Chicago River will be dyed green Saturday, officially kicking off St. Patrick’s Day celebrations across the city.
A tradition since 1962, the dyeing of the river attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators decked out in their best Irish green for the annual event that precedes the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Last year, more than 400,000 people flocked to the streets of downtown Chicago to watch the river being dyed. Here’s what to know about this year's:
When – The dyeing of the river will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 11 when the boats launch between Columbus and Wacker drives. Chicago’s St. Patrick's Day Parade will follow, stepping off at 12 p.m. in Grant Park.
Best Places to Watch – Spectators can watch from both sides of the Chicago River, but city officials say these are the best spots to see the dye boats work:
- East side of the bridge at Michigan Avenue
- West side of the Columbus Drive Bridge
- Along the banks of the Chicago Riverwalk between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive
- Upper and Lower Wacker Drive between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive
How It’s Done – For more than 40 years, members of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers union have turned the river a bright emerald green by dumping a secret concoction off the sides of their motorboats. The City says it takes more than 45 pounds of the environmentally friendly vegetable dye to color the water, using a powdered formula that begins orange before it mixes with the water to turn the river bright green. It typically lasts about five hours before fading away.
2017 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade: The city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will begin around 12 p.m. on the corner of Columbus Drive and Balbo before continuing north to Monroe. The parade will happen “rain or shine” and typically lasts about three hours.