We’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, it says. But in Chicago, we’re all Irish the weekend before — when the Chicago River is dyed green.
Typically, the coloring of the Chicago River by Local 130, the Chicago Plumbers Union, occurs the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and coincides with the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. And according to officials, this year will be no different.
According to the organizers, the Chicago River will be colored green from 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 11 between State Street and Columbus Drive. And at 12:30 p.m., the St. Patrick’s Day parade steps off.
As thousands of revelers prepare to hit the town centre, here’s an insider’s guide if you’re planning to go.
Where can you see The River Dyeing
While the river coloring begins at 10 a.m., you might want to get to the river, between Columbus and the state by 9. According to Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local 130, the best view is on Upper Wacker Drive between Columbus and Fairbanks.
How to get there
Since parking can prove difficult, Metra is offering extra service on seven of its 11 lines Saturday morning for the event, along with extra express trains.
Although the price for a Saturday pass is $7, if you plan to take the Rock Island Line on Sunday to the South Side Irish Parade in Chicago’s Morgan Park area, you may want to consider purchasing a $10 weekend pass.
The complete price table is listed here.
As Saturday is expected to be a busy passenger day, according to Metra, bicycles, backpacks or alcohol will not be allowed on the trains.
An iconic tradition, the Chicago River is dyed green the Saturday before every St. Patrick’s Day.
After the Chicago River coloring, revelers can hop on a ride or CTA bus south to Grant Park for the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which steps off at 12:30 p.m. at Columbus and Balbo and heads north.
Drivers may want to reserve a parking space in advance. To avoid traffic headaches, stick to DuSable Lake Shore Drive Saturday, or stay west of State Street, as road closures on Columbus will impede traffic through Grant Park near Buckingham Fountain.
Who dyes the Chicago River green and how?
Chicago River dyeing is a tradition that goes back half a century, says Choose Chicago. Prompted by a proposal from the Chicago Plumbers Union, Local 130, the first river dyeing occurred in 1962.
The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local 130 plumbers union is still responsible for dyeing the river, and according to their website.
What is in the green dye?
The Plumbers Union, says Choose Chicago, “still holds the river-staining distinction today.” But you won’t find their recipe anywhere, it says. “Their eco-friendly dye formula remains a closely guarded secret,” the post continues.