St. Patrick’s Day
Did you know that in many waterways across the world are dyed green to celebrate St. Patricks Day. I visited Chicago a number of years ago to attend a conference called Pittcon. It was held over the March 17th period and I got to experience this rather unusual – but really nice acknowledgement of Ireland and Irish people on this one day.
However, this tradition did not start with St. Patrick in mind: The dyeing tradition became an annual thing nearly 60 years ago, in 1962. Its real origins however, go back even further. Mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley wanted to address the problem of the river which was a sewage-filled eyesore. In order to track the exact places where waste was being discarded into the waterway, Daley authorised the pouring of a special green dye into the river that would allow them to see exactly where dumping was occurring.
In late 1961 when Stephen Bailey—the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade chairman, and a childhood friend of Daley’s—witnessed a colleague’s green-soaked coveralls following a day of pouring Daley’s dye into the Chicago River. Bailey then had the idea to turn it all green. The dye that was intended to help spot pollution was an oil-based fluorescein that many environmentalists warned was actually damaging the river even more. In 1966 the parade organizers began using a powdered, vegetable-based dye. These days, the colour only remains for about 5 hours.