So what is St. Patrick’s Day other than just an excuse to eat, drink and be very, very merry? And what is it about St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago that makes every other celebration seem tiny in comparison? We decided to find out for ourselves.
St. Patrick’s Day commemorates not just the death of Saint Patrick (no prizes for guessing that one) who was Ireland’s most famous patron saint but rather how he paved the way for Christianity to get to Ireland. He died on March 17th which is when you’ll always find St. Patrick’s Day – and this year it happens to fall on Friday.
Chi-Town’s downtown parade generally happens on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day – and kicks off with the dyeing of the Chicago River at 9am. Approximately half a million spectators look on in awe as the river is dyed emerald green. The tradition began when then-Major Richard J Daley said it was fine to put a green dye into the river to make it easier for experts to see where waste was being illegally dumped. A couple years later, this spawned the idea to dye the entire river every St. Patrick’s Day.
But who knew how much dye to put in? The first ever batch greened the river for seven days! But since then, a lot of experimenting has led to the exact amount – and as for the dye itself, it’s a vegetable-based one and they’ve been using it since 1966. The actual procedure begins around 9am on the morning of the parade and takes less than an hour to complete. We’re left with a green river for about five hours!
The best views to watch it done are found by the Michigan Avenue bridge’s east side, the Columbus Drive bridge’s west side or upper or lower Wacker Drive between Michigan Ave and Columbus Drive. It’s almost as fun as the parade itself!
The parade begins at 12 on Saturday, March 11th and, just like the river dyeing process, it’s free to watch. The parade wends through Grant Park and pays respects to all things Irish. In fact, expect bagpipes, drum corps, Irish dancers and more along the parade route.
Whatever you do, stay safe and if you’re going to drink do it reasonably. No one needs any more green on them than they already have!