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Some people celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a pint of Irish stout or a shot of Irish whiskey. Others celebrating by having a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Cities generally do things on a larger scale than individuals, with parades that feature homages to Irish traditions and bright green decorations. Two cities really go above and beyond for St Patrick’s Day by doing something a lot more dramatic than throwing a parade: they dye their rivers green. Both Chicago and San Antonio have upheld this unusual, colorful tradition for several decades.
Chicago started their St Patrick’s Day tradition in 1962, when the organizer of a local St Patrick’s Day parade noticed plumbers using a green dye to detect pollution leaking into the Chicago river and wondered whether it would be possible to use that dye to have the whole river go green for the festivities. Today, the river is dyed using a large quantity of eco-friendly powdered vegetable dye and it is colored on the Saturday before St Patrick’s Day.
San Antonio started their tradition in 1969, dying the San Antonio River a vibrant green for St Patrick’s Day and rechristening the river – temporarily, of course – as “The River Shannon.” It’s a big hit with tourists, but the town has a strongly rooted Irish tradition, which often surprises visitors. River-friendly vegetable dye is also used here.