Back in the mid-to-late ’80s I was living in Chicago. One of the biggest celebrations Chicago has is on St. Patrick’s Day. I knew Boston and New York had St. Patrick’s Day parades, but I never realized Chicago had one too until I lived there. It was exciting to work in the Loop where the parade took place.
Also happening on St. Patrick’s Day is dyeing the Chicago River green. I could see all of this from my cubicle window where I was temping at. This high-rise building was located on Wacker Drive that runs parallel to the Chicago River. Also, I had a date on one particular St. Patrick’s Day where we went to different bars, pubs and taverns. These were all great memories to share of my St. Patrick’s Day experience in Chicago.
Dyeing the Chicago River Green
This has become a tradition since 1962 when plumbers used green dye to check for leaks from buildings that may empty waste into the Chicago River. It was the particular shade of green that fascinated a plumber’s union official. The shade of green was Irish green, the exact color of Ireland. I was temping at an office building located right on Wacker Drive with a perfect view of the Chicago River from my cubicle.
I could not help but constantly look at the green dye as it was filling up the entire river during the morning of St. Patrick’s Day. The shade of green is absolutely breathtaking to look at. Crowds of people were gathering at the riverfront to see it for themselves. Incidentally, the formula for the green dye is a closely guarded secret. However, the green dye is always tested by independent environmental chemists and is safe for the environment.
A View From Above for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Now the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the greening of the Chicago River are now on Saturdays. When I lived there it always occurred on the date of March 17th. After the completion of the green dye into the river, that only lasts a few hours, the parade was about to begin. I had to go to another part of the office to see some of the parade. You could easily hear the drums beating for the marchers to stay in rhythm. At least we could hear the music faintly. I can only imagine the offices on the lower levels what the noise must have been like. The parade was all over before people had to leave to go home starting at 3 or 4 p.m.
Pub Crawling the Neighborhood Taverns
On my first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Chicago I also got to go on a pub crawl, or the equivalent of bar hopping. We steered away from Rush Street, Chicago’s answer to New Orleans’ Bourbon Street or Tampa’s Ybor. Instead, we concentrated on pubs and taverns in the Lincoln Park neighborhood due west of Wrigleyville. My date was introducing me to this other tradition on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not a beer drinker, so I did not taste the plenty servings of green beer.
We simply spent some time with friends my date knew from his neighborhood, workplace and social club. It was fun going from place to place, because these establishments were getting too crowded and rowdy for my tastes. Nevertheless, it was a different way to spend a nice evening. Now on every St. Patrick’s Day I often think back to my first year in Chicago seeing these long-standing traditions take place in the Windy City.
Dan O’Leary, “The Story Behind Dyeing the River”, Chicago Green River
Chicago’s 2011 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, Chicago St. Pats Parade
Rosetta Johnston, “St. Patrick’s Day: Pub Crawling in Chicago”, Associated Content from Yahoo!