Meet the man who dyes the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day

CHICAGO, IL – MARCH 17: Members of the plumbers’ union dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The River was first dyed green in 1962 and has grow to be a St. Patrick’s Day tradition in Chicago. (Photograph by Brian Kersey/Getty Pictures)

(CNN) — On St. Patrick’s Day, Tom Rowan will do the identical thing he has accomplished that day for the past 56 years: He’ll make the Chicago River run green.

Rowan, a seventy five-yr-previous retired police officer, is the man behind the well-known Windy City ritual. The town’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is world-famend, primarily because of its distinctive tradition of dyeing the river green.

“The unique Mayor Daley within the Nineteen Fifties needed to do one thing special, he needed to dye the entire of Lake Michigan green. However it was simply too big to do. The subsequent neatest thing was the Chicago River,” Rowan advised CNN.

A good friend of Mayor Richard J. Daley had come to him with an intriguing concept in 1961. He had observed a plumber’s overalls stained with a hanging shade of inexperienced. The substance was a dye used to check for leaks in pipes. This was the lightbulb moment through which a fantastic Chi-Town custom was conceived. The Chicago River was first dyed green in 1962, to the delight of the various Irish Chicagoans.

How the tradition started

Rowan’s father, Tom Sr., labored on the police marine unit answerable for the department’s patrol boats. Daley gave Tom Sr. and his colleague Michael Butler the duty of dropping the dye into the river from their boats. They brought their teenage sons along to help, making it a household affair of Rowans and Butlers.

Since 1962, the dye crew has been “solely the 2 families.”

Over half a century later, Tom Jr. will lead a crew of six throughout two boats, manned by the sons and grandsons of Tom Sr. and Michael Butler.

“The Rowans and the Butlers characterize Chicago’s emphasis on family. They passed this tradition down by way of their generations,” Jack Levin, the president of Chicago’s Chamber of Commerce, advised CNN.

“Dyeing the river inexperienced is a superb Chicago custom, and we now have Tom Rowan and Mike Butler to thank for that,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated.

The dye recipe is a intently guarded secret

The dye itself is an orange powder, derived from an environmentally-friendly vegetable base.

But what precisely is the dye product of?

“It’s like the Coca Cola recipe — we don’t tell anyone,” Rowan stated.

Many different cities have tried and failed to duplicate the dyeing process. One metropolis official tried to talk the key recipe out him just lately, however Rowan stated he held agency and disclosed nothing. “I wasn’t…

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