There will be zero, zip, zilch — NO — dyeing of the Chicago River to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year.
Michele Scaccia-Coyne, head of marketing for the city’s downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which has also been canceled — along with the South Side Irish Parade — seemed exasperated Friday when asked about the chances of a river-dyeing event this year.
“This is crazy, so many people are obsessed with river dyeing,” she said, pointing to the volume of calls she’s been receiving on the topic.
Well, it is a bit of a tradition, beloved by decades of Chicagoans and immortalized in the 1993 movie “The Fugitive.”
“If they can dye this river green today, why can’t they dye it blue the other 364 days of the year?” an underling asks Tommy Lee Jones’ Marshal Samuel Gerard.
The tradition dates back to 1962. The annual task is handled by the Plumbers Union Local 130.
The story goes that plumbers in the 1960s used the green of the dye to keep track of where pollution seeped into the river. Upon seeing a worker coated in leprechaun green after a long day’s work, the union boss — who also organized the parade — hatched the plan to color the river green for the celebrations.
Sort of a pot of green at the end of the river.
Sadly, the pandemic has instituted a new and hopefully short-lived tradition: not dyeing the river green. This is the second straight year that both the green river and St. Patrick’s Day parades were cancelled amid coronavirus concerns.
Scaccia-Coyne conceded the attention was a compliment.
She encourages would-be celebrants to tune into a small parade that will be livestreamed Saturday at 2 p.m. and will feature several floats, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen Kari McClowry and Kevin Byrne, Ireland’s Consul General to Chicago, among others.
The tiny parade will be held at an undisclosed location in order to discourage large crowds, Scaccia-Coyne said.
Word came last month that the downtown parade scheduled for Saturday had been canceled and the South Side Irish Parade down Western Avenue, scheduled for Sunday, was canceled, too.
And, fearing the spread of COVID-19 at overcrowded bars, Chicago’s liquor control commissioner earlier this month sent a certified letter to bars and restaurants reminding them of their responsibilities to prevent St. Patrick’s Day crowds from gathering and violating capacity restrictions and safety protocols.
Owners, the letter said, were to enforce the indoor capacity limit of 50% or 50 people per room or floor, whichever is less.
Tables must be spaced six feet apart, with no more than six people at each table. Patrons must remain seated while eating and drinking. And masks must be worn, except while “actively eating or drinking.”
“Kiss me, I’m Irish” buttons are decidedly not a good idea, either.