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With Ice Gone, River To Go Green As Planned For St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Members of the plumbers' union dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day (File photo)

Members of the plumbers’ union dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day (File photo)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A couple weeks ago, Chicagoans couldn’t be blamed for worrying about whether the Chicago River could be dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day, or if someone would have to paint ice floes to get the same effect.

Thanks to the recent thaw, the river is clear of ice, and the St. Patrick’s Day weekend tradition of turning the river green before the parade – a Chicago institution dating back to 1962 – will continue.

“I would say two or three weeks ago, with this crazy winter we’ve had, there might have been some concerns, but as you can see, the river is moving, and we’ll be able to get our motorboats up and down the river,” said Jim Coyne, a plumber who’s been dyeing the river green for the parade committee.

WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports the only change this year will be an earlier start for the dyeing of the river.

The boats will start dumping the dye – which is an orange powder before it mixes with the water in the river – at 9:30 a.m. this year, half an hour earlier than normal.

“We need to start earlier, because there are gonna be hundreds of thousands of people here, so to get all these people from the dyeing of the river over to the parade, we need that time to move all these folks from one place to the next,” Coyne said.

The downtown parade will start at noon, as normal, at Columbus and Balbo in Grant Park, heading north to Monroe.

Parade planners have changed the process of dyeing the river a little bit over the years, cutting back quite a bit on how much dye they dump in the water.

“When they first started this process, they put 100 pounds in. The water was green for a week,” he said.

Now, they use 25 pounds.

The South Side Irish Parade, which used to be even more popular than the downtown parade, will step off Sunday at noon, starting at 103rd and Western, heading south to 115th Street.