A Guide To Chicago's St. Patrick's Day Parade & River Dyeing

Shannon Blum
February 20, 2019 - 12:01 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The 64th annual Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade kicks off Saturday at noon downtown, following the world-famous Chicago River dyeing. 

You know it, you love it, and if you haven't seen it, you better. The Chicago River dyeing for St. Patrick's Day is known to be world famous and a beloved tradition of many Chicagoans. Each year, thousands of people line the streets and bridges of Chicago's riverwalk early Saturday morning to see the Chicago River turn emerald green. And then to keep the celebration and Irish festivities going, the crowds then gather in the Loop for the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade at noon.

The parade is said to be the "centerpiece of Chicago's unforgettable St. Patrick's Day celebrations" and is one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades in the country. Bagpipers, Irish dancers, and other entertainers walk down Columbus Drive, waving to spectators. 

Related: Photos: Chicago River Dye

Think you are ready to join in on the holiday celebration? Here is a Guide to Chicago's St. Patrick's Day Parade and River Dyeing.

Schedule of Events:

Saturday, March 16

9 a.m. - Dyeing of the Chicago River

Viewing: Guests can view the river dyeing from the east side of Michigan Avenue, the west side of Columbus Drive, or upper and lower Wacker Drive, between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive. The suggested place to watch is the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. Remember, the dye only lasts about five hours, so be sure to check it out before the emerald color fades away.

Noon - Chicago's Downtown St. Patrick's Day Parade

Parade Route:

Chicago's downtown St. Patrick's Day parade steps off at noon on Saturday, March 13 at Balbo Drive and Columbus Drive; and proceeds north on Columbus Drive to Monroe Drive.

Viewing: Barricades are set up along Columbus. It is recommended that attendees arrive early to receive a good spot. The main viewing stand is located in front of Buckingham Fountain, where dancers and bands pause to wave to the crowd.

Theme: 

This year’s parade theme is “The Music of Ireland.”

Grand Marshal: 

Terry Hancock, President, Teamsters Joint Council No. 25 is the 2019 Grand Marshal. To learn more about Terry Hancock and his years of service, visit the website.

Guest of Honor: 

Fr. Michael Caruso, SJ and St. Ignatius College Prep have been named the Guest of Honor at the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. With great anticipation of the 150th Sesquicentennial Anniversary, this is a very special moment for St. Ignatius, and for Chicago. Never, in the history of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade has a school received the distinction of Guest of Honor.

This year’s parade theme is “The Music of Ireland.” It is significant to note that St. Ignatius student, Rogers O’Neill (1904) and his father, Police Chief Francis O’Neill, were instrumental in preserving Irish traditional music in Chicago. Chief O’Neill collected and published thousands of tunes from Ireland that nearly vanished after the potato famine of 1848.

Parade Queen: 

Madeline Mitchell has been named the 2019 St. Patrick's Day Parade Queen. She will be joined by Madeleine Sherrier, Meghan Tomaszewski, Maura Carr, and Theresa McDermott, who make up the Queen Court. 

The 2019 Queen was chosen by a panel of Judges and crowned our New Queen! 

Getting There:

If You Are Driving from the:

-North or Northwest: Enter downtown Chicago via I-94, you can exit and go east at Washington, Monroe, or Congress (Ida B. Wells) Parkway. Look for parking either at Wells or Wabash. 

-West: Take I-290 east onto Congress (Ida B. Wells) Parkway. Look for parking before you get to Michigan Avenue. 

-South or Southwest: Take I-94 into the Loop, exit at Congress (Ida B. Wells) Parkway, Monroe, or Washington. Look for parking either at Wells or Wabash. 

If you need additional directions, you can use the address, 400 S. Columbus Dr., in your GPS. 

Consider taking public transportation:

It is strongly recommended that viewers come down early and if possible, take public transportation. 

  • If taking the CTA Blue or Red Line train, exit at any of the loop stops and walk east to Columbus Drive. 
  • If taking the CTA Brown, Green, or Orange Line train, exit at any of the stops along Wabash and walk east to Columbus Drive. 
  • If taking the CTA Bus, visit transitchicago.com for the best instructions to downtown. 

Metra trains drop riders at various locations around the city. If you are taking a train into Union Station, exit and walk seven blocks east to Columbus Drive. Metra will run extra trains throughout the weekend for St. Patrick’s Day events.

Street Closures: 

Street closures will start as early as 8 a.m. on Columbus Avenue, from Roosevelt Road to Wacker Drive, as well as on any east and west streets within those boundaries. Entry to the parade will only be permitted at Jackson and Ida B. Wells Drives, where security will be checking all bags and purses.

The Chicago Riverwalk will open later in the morning at 11 a.m., with public access allowed at Franklin Street, LaSalle Street, Dearborn Street, and State Street on the east side. Security will be conducting bag searches at entry points on the Riverwalk as well. Outside beverages will be limited to 8 ounces, and alcoholic beverages will be prohibited, officials said. City Winery, Tiny Tapp and Chicago Brewhouse will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Parking:

The Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade recommends reserving affordable parking in advance.

The Millennium Park Garage and Grant Park North Garage are closest to the parade route on Michigan Avenue. Those are also the recommended garages for those needing handicap spaces. 

Millennium Park Garage
5 S Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60601

Grant Park North Garage
25 N Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60602

Parking is also offered at the Hilton, located at Balbo Drive and Michigan Avenue, one block from the parade start. 

Additional parking can be found along Wells between Lake and Van Buren; along Wabash between Lake and Congress (Ida B. Wells). Parking near Randolph will place you between the Chicago River, where river dyeing takes place, and the parade route. 

Guests can also park at Navy Pier, which is about a half mile from the parade route. There are also plenty of garages guests can park in scattered throughout the Loop. 

Sponsors:

The Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade has been proudly sponsored by the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 UA since 1956.

  • ABC 7 Chicago
  • Aer Lingus 
  • BLB & G (Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP)
  • Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 UA
  • Country Financial
  • Flexera
  • Legacy Professionals LLP
  • Mercedes Benz of Chicago
  • Miller Lite
  • National Investment Services
  • Shannon Rovers
  • Shoreline Sightseeing
  • Stan's Donuts
  • Ullico
  • William Blair

Other Parades and Information: 

Archer Avenue Parade

The Archer Avenue Parade will take place on Saturday as well. Assembly begins at 11 a.m. at 5300 S. Oak Park Ave, the OEMC said. It will step off at 12 p.m. (noon) and proceed south on Oak Park Avenue towards Archer Avenue, where it will turn east to Narrangansett Avenue, then south on Narrangansett to 5600 S. Narrangansett.

South Side Irish Parade

On Sunday, the South Side Irish Parade kicks off at 12 p.m. (noon) and will march down Western Avenue from 103rd Street to 115th Street, officials said. Parking restrictions will begin as early as 6 a.m., with street closures in the area beginning at 9 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., the Emerald Isle Mile, a one-mile run, will take place from Kennedy Park at 10400 Western Avenue to 11200 S. Western Ave.

Northwest Side Irish Parade

The Northwest Side Irish Parade will begin to assemble Sunday at 10 a.m. at 6634 W. Raven St. and take off at 12 p.m. (noon), officials said. The parade route will follow Neola Avenue to the Northwest Highway and turn northwest towards Harlem Avenue, where it will eventually disband.