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Chicago Celebrates St. Patrick's Day With River Dyeing, Parade

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thousands of green-clad Chicagoans celebrated St. Patrick's Day Saturday first with the annual river dyeing, followed by the parade down Columbus Drive.

It almost sounded like a sporting event along the banks of the Chicago River as crews dyed the water green, reports WBBM's Mike Krauser.

Thousands of people lined both sides of the river cheering as crews from the Plumber's Union Local 130 carried on the unique Chicago tradition dating back to 1962.

Pat McCarthy, parade coordinator with the Plumber's Union says it happened almost by accident. Some plumbers were working with dye to detect leaks.

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"One day some guys were working on that leak detection, they went to the union hall and the business manager at the time, they walked in, they were full of green dye on their shirts. He said, 'Where the hell have you guys been? Maybe we can put that stuff in the river,'" McCarthy said.

The crews poured an orange powder into the water, making it a luminescent Kelly green. McCarthy says the formula is not shared with anyone.

"It's a very closely held secret," he said. "It's very environmentally safe. It's a very fine powder and it goes in orange and as soon as it hits water it turns a brilliant green."

After the river dyeing, the downtown St. Patrick's Day Parade kicked off at noon on Columbus Drive.

Grant Park was awash in green as the Shannon Rovers led the parade up Columbus Drive. The weather was mild, the sun was shining and so was Erin Mulcahy, the 2016 Queen of the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade.

"It means so much. I was on court for the last five years and to have my family here and to be able to represent Plumbers Local 30 is absolutely incredible, something I have dreamed of for many years. Perfect day for it, perfect weather. It's really great."

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With Illinois' primary election coming up on Tuesday, a number of politicians are marching in the parade including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Governor Bruce Rauner, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Senator Dick Durbin. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is serving as the parade's grand marshal.

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