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Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with classic traditions

Chicago’s river and streets turned green Saturday as the city celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with the annual river dyeing and parade.

The dyeing of the Chicago River officially started at 9 a.m., but people flocked from L trains to fill the bridges and streets much earlier to try to get a good view of the river as it turned the iconic emerald green color.

“I can’t actually see [because of the crowd], but it’s all good fun,” said Marvee Marr, who traveled all the way from Philadelphia for the festivities. “As long as the weather’s nice.”

The tradition has become an important part of the city’s annual celebration since its beginning in 1962.  Former mayor Richard J. Daley originally wanted to dye Lake Michigan, but Stephen Bailey of the Chicago Plumbers’ Union Local 130 UA suggested making the river green instead.

Vegetable-based dye turns the river green | Camilla Forte

In the nearly 60 years since, thousands have gathered around the bridges and sidewalks overlooking the river to watch the boats disperse almost 50 pounds of vegetable-based dye throughout the water to officially kick off the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

Celebrators wore festive outfits, hats and accessories in all shades of green throughout the day, some covered in shamrock patterns and glitter. Vendors sold T-shirts, hats and other goods around the river and on the way to the parade route along Columbus Avenue.

The well-known holiday parade began in 1956 and has become a tradition for many within the city.

“This year I decided to take my son downtown, but my family originated on the South Side, so we have been doing that for the past 30 years,” said parade watcher Sean Lynch. “[My favorite part] is the people who come out.  Everybody seems to be in a good spirit.”

Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations continue on Sunday with the Irish parades on both the South and Northwest sides.

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