This past weekend, Chicago continued its tradition of dyeing the river green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It’s part of a larger celebration with multiple parades and informal pub crawls. I was lucky to experience this tradition a few years ago while attending a travel writers conference. While I was excited to meet so many women travel writers and bloggers from around the world, I was even more excited to see the Chicago green river for St. Patrick’s Day.
If you think your city does St. Patrick’s Day well (outside of Dublin of course), you’d be wrong. Chicago not only has multiple parades with the Downtown parade attracting over 300k people, they dye the river green! That’s taking it the extra mile and they have been doing this for over 50 years. With a eco-friendly vegetable dye the boats begin their routine of swirling the dye in the water. While I missed this part of the process, a friend had excellent photos she took from a nearby hotel high above the river (a few have rooftop viewing from bars and restaurants) – there are also multiple YouTube videos of the process from several years.
Off to see the Chicago Green River
During our extended lunch break, I was able to make my way through the kilts, the outlandish green body suits, the tall leprechaun hats and the more unbelievably dressed revelers (ah to be young, drunk and without a care in the world as those photos will definitely haunt them on social media!) to the Chicago Green River. While I had seen the green river for many years on television, seeing it in person was unreal. The actual green of the river does not translate on the television – it was a crazy bright green! I just stood there laughing it was that green.
While I was at the river, the parade was nearing it’s conclusion down at Millenium Park with Irish dancers, floats, marching bands and bagpipes. I was sad to miss the parade but happy that the river wasn’t so crowded with people and easy to navigate.
Chicago Green River Accessories – Everyone’s Irish for a Day
If you forgot your green outfit, beads, silly hat, glasses, sparkly vest or “kiss me I’m Irish button”, don’t worry Walgreen’s (which seem to be on every corner downtown) and other stores I walked into had something to make you Irish, even if it was selling you Jameson’s Irish Whiskey! Vendors were along the parade route selling hats, beads and other green accessory to make you honorary Irish for the day. Just in case you forgot you are in the city for St. Patrick’s Day, restaurants changed the light bulbs to green, buildings were lit in green and even the hotel had a subtle message. It was hard to escape the color green.
Despite all the insanity of the green river, the parade, the revelers and the outfits (some that I wished I had never seen) -it was really nice to see happy people (even if alcohol played a part). Groups of friends, families, couples and the traveling singleton (me) were enjoying the bright, sunny day walking around Chicago. So while Kermit the Frog may lament “it ain’t easy being green”, in Chicago for St. Patrick’s day, it’s super easy and fun being green (and temporary Irish).
Have you visited the Chicago green river to experience St. Patrick’s Day? If not, how do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in your part of the world?