The dyeing of the Chicago River followed by the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade up Columbus Drive are two of the most anticipated events of the year.
As spectators get ready to wear their finest green attire, here are some fun facts to know about how Chicago celebrates the Irish festivities, including a busted myth about the river's green-colored waters:
History—Although the parade started in 1956, the river dye tradition started years later. In 1961 the plumber’s union business manager “Stephen Bailey was approached by a plumber who was wearing some white coveralls, they knew this only because they could see some of the original color," explains the city’s official parade site. "These coveralls had been mostly stained or dyed a perfect shade of green… they discovered that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned green, not just any color green, but the perfect color green.”
Extension—Organizers say for the first time this year, they're extending the length of the Chicago River one block west to State Street so that hundreds of more spectators are able to watch the anticipated event unfold.
Spoiler Alert—Although the formula for the dye is unknown since it has remained a well-kept secret ever since its origin, organizers have confirmed that the powder, surprisingly, is not green. Turns out, its original color is a reddish-orange tone that simply turns emerald green after it hits the water.
Myth—Rumors suggest that the green-colored water travels from the Chicago River to the Illinois River, onto the Mississippi, followed by the Gulf Stream and across the Atlantic until it enters the Irish Sea, “clearly marking the way from Chicago to Ireland,” the city’s official parade site states. Spokesperson Daly however, says this is most likely a myth considering the green coloration only lasts about 5 hours.
Views—For the river dye, the best views include the east side of Michigan Avenue, the west side of Columbus Drive, or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive. For the parade, marchers will proceed north on Columbus Drive. The viewing stand will be located in front of Buckingham Fountain.