Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day in surprise move from the city

In an effort to limit crowds during St. Patrick’s Day weekend as a precautionary measure due to Covid-19, Chicago city officials did not announce plans to continue their longstanding tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green to mark the holiday.

But in a surprise Twitter announcement Saturday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city was “able to honor long-standing tradition.”

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, Chicago!” she said. “Although we didn’t gather, we were able to honor long-standing tradition by dyeing the Chicago River green, thanks to the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers. If you’re heading out today, make sure to mask up and watch your distance.”

The Chicago Plumber’s Union surprised residents early Saturday morning as crews cruised through the river in boats, leaving trails of green dye along the way.

About 20 minutes later, the Chicago River was completely green, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the Plumbers Union Local 130 said there were no plans to dye the river this year, NBC Chicago reported.

Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parades have been canceled for the second year in a row this March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, city officials announced last month.

But the city is working with organizers and communities to find new ways of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in a safe manner that aligns with ongoing public health guidance, according to Lightfoot’s office.

For instance, organizers of Chicago’s 2021 South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade said they “will not run its traditional march down Western Avenue,” NBC Chicago reported. Instead, they plan to hold a “Shamrock Our Blocks” event, a home decorating contest.

Local officials are urging residents to continue following public health guidelines and avoid large gatherings. They’re also warning that anyone who may be hosting or celebrating St. Patrick’s Day must follow the appropriate guidelines.

Residential gatherings are limited to groups of no more than ten people and restrictions for businesses remain in place.

“St. Patrick’s Day is one of greatest times of the year in Chicago, but as we enter the second year of this pandemic our celebration must look different than typical years,” Rosa Escareno, commissioner of the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

“We have to stay diligent and commit to the regulations that keep our community safe. I expect our businesses to rise to the occasion this weekend as they have throughout the pandemic, but we will be prepared to take enforcement action if necessary,” Escareno said.