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In Pictures: Dyeing the Chicago River Green

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 14, 2011 4:00PM

The city held its annual "My First Beer" Parade St. Patrick's Day Parade Saturday. For the past 43 years, the parade was preceded by dyeing the Chicago river a bright Kelly green. The tradition came about by happenstance. A couple of plumbers discovered that the dye they used to detect leaks heading into the river turned that Irish green that's so ubiquitous at this time of year. they brought the news to Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local 110 business manager Stephen Bailey, who then asked around and ultimately received permission to try and dye the river green.

The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local 110 union is charged with dyeing the river green every year. they do so using copious amounts of that same dye and motorboats to stir it into the drink. The dye itself is orange in color and the mixture of 40 pounds of vegetable dye has been in place for for years. the 40 pounds is enough to keep the river a Shamrock green for about 4-5 hours, after which it reverts back to its murky, polluted green.