Free St. Patrick’s Day Festivities in Chicago – 2011

Chicago — everyone is Irish this Weekend!! Come out for the annual free St. Patrick’s Day Parade and free Greening of the Chicago River on Saturday, March 12, 2011 as well as other festivities held around Chicago.

Chicago Official 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The free 56th annual St Patrick’s Day parade takes place at 12:00 noon, Saturday March 12, 2011, which begins at Balbo and Columbus Dr. and follows Columbus to Monroe St., and the Chicago River is dyed green a little earlier about 10:45 am. The parade is always held the Saturday before the actual calendar date of Saint Patrick’s Day, which allows families to participate in the festivities without having to remove their children from school.

Dyeing the River Green – 10:30 am – March 12, 2011


Turning the Chicago river green has been unique to Chicago for the past 40 years. Most people did not know that this is a privately funded operation, which gets more expensive each year. In 2011 we will be turning the river green on Saturday March 12, starting at 10:30 A.M.! This year we will be east of Wabash Ave, and west of Columbus Dr. The dyeing operation can be best viewed from the East side of the Michigan Avenue bridge, the West side of the Columbus Drive bridge or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive.

Pond Dyeing The Garfield Park conservatory aqlso gets in on the green dye action as it demonstrates how Chicago dyes its river green, but on a much smaller scale—they do it in a pond in the Fern Room, with remote-controlled boats stirring the dye.  All this fun takes place on Fri 3/11, 10 AM, Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park, 312-746-5100,

Northwest Side Irish Parade

This Northwest side Irish stronghold hosts its own FREE Saint Patrick’s Day Parade: this northwest-side version assembles at Onahan Elementary School (6633 W. Raven), heads down Neola, then turns up Northwest Highway to end at Harlem. Pat Quinn and Jan Schakowsky are among the special guests; both the Jesse White Tumblers and their namesake, secretary of state Jesse White, will also attend. Admission to the afterparty, from 1 to 5 PM at the Immaculate Conception Recreation Center, includes a corned beef and cabbage dinner (7211 W. Talcott, $10). Sunday March 13, noon,

The History Behind Dyeing the Chicago River Green

A modern day miracle occurs each year as part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebration when the Chicago River turns an incredible shade of Irish green. This spectacular transformation ranks right up there with the parting of the sea by Moses and the Pyramids of Egypt.

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.”

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. “A tradition is born”

Today this miracle belongs to Mike Butler and his crew, which he claims to always have a little help from a leprechaun who seems to just appear at this time each year.

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.

As the late Stephen Bailey has said, the road from Chicago to Ireland is marked in green. From the Chicago River to the Illinois River, then to the Mississippi, up the Gulf Stream and across the Atlantic you can see the beautiful green enter the Irish Sea, clearly marking the way from Chicago to Ireland.

Other activities

The Irish Heritage Center is holding two celebrations:
Following the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 12, the Irish Heritage Centers will celebrate with a St. Patrick’s Festival.  This large-scale, family-oriented annual event includes traditional and contemporary Irish music, dance, food and children’s activities.  Performers include Tim O’Shea and Patrick Buckley, the Shannon Rovers, the Dooley Brothers, the Sandcarvers, the Sullivan Brothers, the Wiggleworms, Anish, Mulligan Stew, Sheila Tully Academy of Irish Dance, O’Hare School of Irish Dance, Trinity Academy of Irish Dance, Mullane Healy Godley Irish Dance Academy, the Irish Heritage Singers and a late night ceili.  Saturday, March 12, 1p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $15 for adults, or $12 for advance purchase if bought by the end of the day on March 10. 4626 N. Knox Ave. Children 12 and under are free. To purchase tickets, call 773-282-7035.

The Irish Heritage Center’s March 17th St. Patrick’s Day bash is a real bargain at $10 a head. Activities include Irish dancing, traditional and modern Irish music and food. Performers include Tim O’Shea and Patrick Buckley, Sheila Tully Academy of Irish Dance, the Chancey Brothers, O’Hare School of Irish Dance, the Boils and Barry Fagan’s Band. 1p.m. to 11p.m. 4626 N. Knox Ave. (773) 282 7035. Free parking is available.

One Comment

  1. Is the river dyeing at 10 sharp, 10:30, or 10:45?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.