Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The City of Chicago is known for one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States. The annual Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade is usually held on the Saturday before March 17. It is famous for the dyeing of the Chicago River.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration held on March 17. It is dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland. Since around 10% of the total population of the United States self-identify as Irish Americans, the holiday is widely celebrated throughout the country. St. Patrick’s Day is not a legal holiday so the festivities are typically held the weekend before March 17.

The Irish comprise one of the largest ethnic groups in Chicago, Illinois. No wonder the city has many different St. Patrick’s Day celebrations including the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the South Side Irish Parade. The Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins at noon on the Saturday preceding March 17. The South Side Irish Parade is usually held on Sunday or Monday.

The Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade is preceded by the famous dyeing of the Chicago River. The river is dyed green because this color has been associated with Ireland since at least the 17th century and is traditionally worn on St. Patrick’s Day.

The dyeing tradition dates back to the 1960s. Back then, fluorescein green dye was poured into the Chicago River to trace sources of pollution discharges. St. Patrick’s Day Parade chairman Stephen Bailey saw a worker in green-soaked coveralls and came up with the idea of dyeing the river green for St. Patrick’s Day.

The dye used by the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local has since been outlawed because it harmed the river. Today the local Plumbers Union that still sponsors the dyeing uses a powdered, vegetable-based dye. The powder is orange but turns green when it’s mixed with water.

The dyeing begins around 9 am on the morning of the parade. About 400,000 spectators line the banks of the Chicago River and watch as six members of the local Plumbers Union spread the dye into the river. The color lasts for about five hours.

The dyeing is followed by a parade featuring beautifully decorated floats, marching bands, and dancers in traditional costumes. The festivities are presided over by the Parade Queen and her court. Any unmarried young women of Irish ancestry, 18-28 years old, is eligible to participate in the Queen Contest. The Queen is expected to represent the Irish community and attend community events on behalf of the parade committee.

Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Photo: chadn




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