Chicago River runs green for St. Patrick's Day

A spectator looks on as the Chicago River is dyed green ahead of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago, Saturday, March, 16, 2013. With the holiday itself falling on a Sunday, many celebrations were scheduled for Saturday because of religious observances. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

March 16, 2013 8:37:02 PM PDT
The Chicago River was dyed green in downtown Chicago as the city's St. Patrick's Day festivities, including a parade, stepped off.

PHOTOS: Chicago River dyed green

VIDEO: Chicago River runs green

Crowds lined the parade route despite the dreary weather.

"Last year, it was 80 degrees and we thought it was a fluke because everyone showed up, but they showed up again today. It's cold and it's raining. Everyone's still here," Jim Malloy, parade marshal, said.

Malloy was joined in the parade, which stepped off at Columbus and Balbo Saturday afternoon, by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly and thousands of watchers.

Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley didn't participate, but said he misses being downtown to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Chicago.

"It's a great city. Rahm is doing a remarkable job. I wish everyone a wonderful St. Patty's Day," Daley said.

The celebration started with the dyeing of the Chicago River. Thousands of people watched the St. Patrick's Day tradition from the bridges over the Chicago River, letting out a cheer as workers dumped the green dye into the water. The Chicago River will run Kelly green for at least a few hours.

The tradition is especially important to Kathleen Unes.

"When people talk about St. Patrick's Day and I tell them my dad is one of the crew members and my brother, Mark, whom we unfortunately lost to cancer two years ago. They took so much pride in this tradition," Unes said.

In a sea of people wearing green shirts, coats and even wigs and beards, 29-year-old Ben May managed to stand out. The Elkhart, Ind., man was wearing a full leprechaun costume complete with a tall green hat he had to hold on to in the wind.

May bought the outfit to wear to Notre Dame football games. But he figured it was fitting for this occasion too. He says he hopes it gets him some free drinks.

"I've been living here for 25 years and I've never been down here. How you going to be a Chicagoan and never come down here?" Michael Miller, parade goer, said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.