St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday of tradition, especially in Chicago. From the bigger St. Patrick’s Day Parade downtown to the South Side Irish Parade in Beverly, it is a day to celebrate Irish heritage and culture with a beer or two. It is also a reminder of the prevalence of the Irish in Chicago history and politics. 

Check out the clips below about the process of dyeing the river green and how the parade can get political.

This Is How They Dye The Chicago River Green

In this segment from The 90s, four men talk about the process of dyeing the river and the secret formula developed to give the river that vibrant green hue. In 1992, videomaker Patrick Creadon went downtown at 2:30 a.m. to cover the preparation for the parade and to talk with the guys from Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union #110 about this tradition. The footage didn’t make it on the show, but decades later, we pulled it out of the archive and cut together a segment. 

Dyeing the Chicago River green is a tradition started in 1962 by mayor Richard J. Daley. Initially, Daley wanted to dye part of Lake Michigan, but settled on just the river. A secret formula was developed to give the river this particular hue. It’s a formula many have tried to unsuccessfully replicate and Chicago won’t share it. Since the formula is secret, the environmental effects are unknown. But according to an interview with Laurene von Klaun, then executive director of Friends of the Chicago River from 2005, “It’s not the worst thing that happens to the river. When you look closely at the problem, it’s not something that needs to be our priority right now.”

Campaigning At The St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade attracts thousands of spectators to celebrate Irish heritage and watch impressive performances. However, it is also an opportunity for political candidates to campaign to their constituents. This segment from The 90s shows the campaigns for politicians such as Joan Jett Blakk, Bill Clinton, and Paul Tsongas before Illinois’ primary election. This primary was hotly contested, with six Democrat candidates trying to oust Republican George H. W. Bush.

Watch the full episode of The 90s here.



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