The Dyeing Crew
The River Dyeing Crew

Dyeing of the River

Modern Day Miracle

A modern day miracle occurs each year as part of the St. Patricks Day Parade celebration when the Chicago River turns an incredible shade of Irish green. This spectacular transformation ranks right up there with the parting of the sea by Moses and the Pyramids of Egypt.

For over 40 years, the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers turn the Chicago River green for the St. Patricks Day Parade celebration. One would ask how this is different from the rest of the year when the river is always a murky shade of green. The difference is both significant and breathtaking because the color green is identical to the greens of Ireland from where it got its name The Emerald Isle.

In 1961 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. These coveralls had been mostly stained or dyed a perfect shade of green, an Irish green to better describe it. It was when Stephen Bailey asked how the coveralls got this way, that they discovered that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned green, not just any color green, but the perfect color green.

A tradition is born

Today this miracle is created by Mike Butler and his crew, which he claims to always have a little help from a leprechaun who seems to just appear at this time each year.

If you were watching this for the first time you would think this is a mistake or a bad joke. You see the dye is orange and its initial color on the surface of the river is orange and you would think to yourself what heathen would do something like this. After a moment or two you then see the true color magically appear.

Two miracles appear that day, the river turns a perfect shade of green something that many other cities have tried but have not been successful at doing, and the second miracle by starting with the color orange giving the impression that river will be orange only to convert the river to that true Irish green. We believe that is where the leprechaun comes in.

As the late Stephen Bailey has said, the road from Chicago to Ireland is marked in green. From the Chicago River to the Illinois River, then to the Mississippi, up the Gulf Stream and across the Atlantic you can see the beautiful green enter the Irish Sea, clearly marking the way from Chicago to Ireland.

Where and When

10:00am: Saturday March 16th.

This is scheduled for 10:00, Saturday March 16th and can be best viewed from the East side of the bridge at Columbus Drive or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive. This is a new location due to construction taking place this year.

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