CHICAGO - MARCH 11: Workers spread an orange powder to dye a downtown section of the Chicago River green to begin the city's St. Patrick's Day celebration March 11, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. The tradition of dying the river dates back over 40 years. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The annual Chicago river dyeing (last Saturday) was an experience.  The dyeing of the river has been a tradition for many generations and lots of folks were dressed in green to see the action live. Created with a concoction by the Plumbers Local Union 130.

The Irish population was growing steadily in Chicago by the mid-1800s, but it wasn’t until the next century that St. Patrick’s Day took hold of the city every March. The city’s first parade was held in 1956, five years before the river started flowing green. We took a look at just how that tradition got started.

The tradition of dyeing the river green is unique to Chicago, and it all started in 1961 thanks to business manager Stephen Bailey of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local (then) 110. That Union is still responsible for the greening today. Here is how it all went down, according to one account: In 1961 Stephen Bailey was approached by a plumber who was wearing some white coveralls, they knew this only because they could see some of the original color. These coveralls had been mostly stained or dyed a perfect shade of green, an Irish green to better describe it. It was when Stephen Bailey asked how the coveralls got this way, that they discovered that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned green, not just any color green, but the perfect color green! How awesome is that.

Since it didn’t cause any harm to the water, and in fact was used to detect leaks and pollution, Bailey suggested the river go green every St. Patrick’s Day, and so it was, starting in 1962, when a hundred pounds of dye was poured in the river. This turned it green for a full week. Since then, some adjustments have been made, and 45 pounds of dye is used, turning the river green for about five hours.

So, get all your green on today and celebrate!