Green River

March 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day the Chicago River is dyed green. I’ve personally never seen the “Green River,” but have heard it is a truly impressive sight. Do you know what makes the river green? Watch the video and read the story below to see if you can figure it out.

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The Story Behind Dyeing the River
For the past 43 years the Chicago River turns green for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebration. One would ask how this is different from the rest of the year when the river is always a murky shade of green. The difference is both significant and breathtaking because the color green is identical to the greens of Ireland from where it got its name “The Emerald Isle.”

If you were watching this for the first time you would think this is a mistake or a bad joke. You see the dye is orange and its initial color on the surface of the river is orange and you would think to yourself what heathen would do something like this. After a moment or two you then see the true color magically appear.

Two miracles appear that day, the river turns a perfect shade of green something that many other cities have tried but have not been successful at doing, and the second miracle by starting with the color orange giving the impression that river will be orange only to convert the river to that true Irish green. We believe that is where the leprechaun comes in.

One of the initial problems was that there was no recipe for dying rivers green. Chicago was the first and only city to do it. So the question was: Do you use a few handfuls of dye or a carload?

One-hundred pounds was used the first year. The river stayed green for a week! The second year, 1963, we cut to 50 lbs, the river was green for three days.

We finally decided to use 25 lbs and that did the job for one day.

In 1966, the environmentalists accused the parade committee of polluting the river. They complained that the dye was oil-based and was detrimental to all living things.

Bailey laughed when he heard their argument but agreed to find a new compound that would do the job and appease the critics.

The committee experimented with a number of vegetable dyes and after a bit of trial and error, the current 40 lbs of new dye was hit upon. It produces a carpet of green for four or five hours.

Did you figure it out?

40lbs of orange vegetable dye that turns green when mixed with water

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