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That Chicago Tradition others Turn Green Over

March 17, 2010

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, which means rivers, streams, fountains and tributaries all over this great land and the Irish-celebrating world will turn an emerald green in celebration of the island with the same name.  It’s a beautiful sight to see, especially if green is your favorite color and Kelly is your last name. But just how “green” is this tradition?  Christine Russell with The Atlantic asked that question in the city with one of the most famous dyeing traditions, Chicago.

In her article, Greening a River for St. Patrick’s Day, Russell writes that the dye used in the Chicago River wasn’t always the same chemical combo.  In the 1960s when a local organizer first decided to green the river cutting through the heart of Chicago, he used 100 pounds of flourescent dye.  Steve Bailey was the organizer with the idea, but the greening was done before Bailey by plumbers in order to check the river for illegally dumped sewage.  Chicagoans use to call it “the stinking river,” so that gives you an idea how important this greening for cleaning process really was.

Just a couple years after the river was first dyed for St. Patrick’s Day in 1962, dyers switched from the flourescent dye originally dumped, leaving it green for a week, to plain old, less-harmful vegetable dye, which only lasts a few hours.  I say, Why stop at the Chicago River?  I wonder how many pounds it takes to turn Lake Michigan into the River Shannon?

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