I looovvvvved growing up in Savannah, Georgia, enjoying the St. Patrick’s celebration from age 2 days, when I was clad in a green cloth diaper, to age 22, when I would bring friends home from college for spring break. It always felt like an extension of my birthday on the 15th. (Really? A citywide parade for me?! Awesome!)
The 17th is a holiday in Savannah—no one works. We wake up, put on our green, have a bloody and head downtown, equipped with blankets, folding chairs, coolers and silly string. The fountains in the squares spray green-dyed water and beers are green too. Once, in 1962, people attempted to dye the Savannah River green. Fun idea, but the strong ocean currents that rip through the waterways could not be controlled for St. Patrick’s Day!
I got to thinking this year, removed from the drums of the marching band, about the traditional greening of rivers. It is still done to the Chicago River, and also in Indianapolis. Is there just tons of dye infiltrating the ecosystem, coursing through fish gills and fishing birds’ veins?
A little research, and my mind was somewhat put at ease: apparently a fluorescent dye was originally used to dye the Chicago River, something used to test sewer water, that has since been replaced with an eco-safe vegetable dye, and only 40 pounds of it per year. However, I couldn’t find the ingredient list for the dye used in Savannah’s fountains. All I found was that at one point something was used that harmed the historic statues in the fountains, so now the dye is relic-safe. My recommendation would be to refrain from ingesting fountain water, though after a long day, it might be tempting to “confuse” it for your beer.
There is someone else who has to bring tradition with her—to the White House! Michelle Obama gives a shout out to Chicago and dyes the fountains in the lawns in D.C.:
I couldn’t find the ingredients for the White House dye either though…
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!