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Chicago: World's Greenest City
- at least on St. Patrick's Day






 -by Lynn Becker

[March 17, 2008] - The strange seductive rituals of St. Patrick's day in Chicago.


The Magic of America, by Marion Mahony Griffin


Green River beverage bottles
So is St. Patrick's Day really an obsession in Chicago, you ask. Is the Pope Irish? Well, what about the mayor, then?
Once again, here's our annual anthropological exploration of this unique event.

In the 1850's, one out of every five Chicago residents was Irish. As a defense against early anti-Irish prejudice, the Irish became a major force in the city's politics, an influence that remains today. It's not unknown for someone who wants to be elected judge to change their name to one that has more of an Irish lilt.

Neighborhood saloons, once ubiquitous, have been rapidly disppearing, to be replaced by more upscale descendants. Butch McGuire's on Division has long been a singles magnet combining mating rituals with cheerful (usually) inebriation. The Kerryman is a more recent updating of the ideal of an Irish drinking establishment, taken upscale.
The Kerryman, Chicago
Until the recent rush to schedule Presidential primaries as early as possible, Chicago primary elections were held in March, and no politician - Irish or not - would be caught dead not putting in an appearance at the St. Patrick's Day parade. If you get to march in the front line with The Mayor, you're golden-green. Irishness, politics and St Patrick's are an indivisible local amalgam, here put on blazing display at still another Gaelic hangout, Fado on Clark Steet.Fado, Chicago, at St. Patrick's day
By all accounts, we don't drink as much as we used to, but for St. Patrick's Day in Chicago, even the bus shelters do their part.
Jameson Whiskey bus shelter ad, Chicago
Not so coincidentally, Jameson's is also a major sponsor, banners flying, of this year's St. Pat's events.
Jameson whiskey, banners on Chicago River
In the 1800's, the buildings and of downtown Chicago were jacked up and the streets raised a story above the Chicago river, above the muck and sewage that mired the old streets. Here, spectators line the river on no fewer than three different levels. Chicago River crowds, St. Patrick's day, 2008
The tradition of dyeing the Chicago green was begun in 1962 by a pipefitter's union official. Even today, Chicago remains a union town, and plumbers from Local 130 now do the honors.
Plumbers Union workers dye Chicago River green, 2008
The dye is orange, but add water, and voila: instant essence of Emerald.
Dyeing Chicago River green, 2008
Dyeing Chicago River green, 2008
Speedboats function as mixmasters, churning up the river water and spreading out the dye.
Dyeing Chicago River green, 2008
And then . . .
Chicago River, Trump Tower, St. Patrick's Day, 2008
Chicago river bank dyed green, St. Patrick's day, 2008
Kayakers in Chicago River dyed green, St. Patrick's day, 2008
Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day, 2008
Tragically, remnants of old prejudices remain. The Irish are still sometimes herded together into small pens, in often crushing, inhumane proximity.
Crown of spectators, dyeing Chicago river green for St. Patrick's day, 2008
Even a day later, the day-glo green has not yet completely faded.
Chicago River, day after being dyed green for St. Patrick's Day, 2008
St. Patrick's Carriage, Chicago, 2008
dog dressed for St. Patrick's Day, Chicago, 2008
Dog dressed for St. Patrick's day, Chicago, 2008
Chicago skyline, St. Patrick's day, 2008

more St. Patrick's photos from years past

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© 2008 photos and text Lynn Becker All rights reserved.

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