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The Chicago River being dyed green ahead of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago, Saturday, March 15, 2014.

Paul Beaty, Associated Press - Ap

The Chicago River being dyed green ahead of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago, Saturday, March 15, 2014.

Paul Beaty, Associated Press - Ap

The Chicago River being dyed green ahead of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago, Saturday, March 15, 2014.

Paul Beaty, Associated Press - Ap

Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day

  • Associated Press
  • March 15, 2014 - 3:48 PM

CHICAGO — The Chicago River is glowing a bright emerald green Saturday as the city kicks off its St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

Thousands of cheering onlookers clustered along downtown bridges as members of Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union Local 130 began dumping containers of dye into the river from motorboats Saturday morning. The annual tradition began at 9:30 a.m. and immediately precedes the St. Patrick's Day parade.

The union has done the dyeing since 1962. Organizers had feared that large chunks of ice would impede the process, but recent warm temperatures kept the river clear. The hue typically lasts about six to 12 hours.

The parade began at noon. The route winds through downtown and ends at the landmark Buckingham Fountain.

A second parade on the city's South Side takes place Sunday.

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