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Band gets front-boat seat to Chicago River dye job

It's one thing to watch the Chicago River being dyed green from high above or either side of the water. But to hang out on a boat alongside the speedboats dumping the dye?

"It's a little less crowded and a lot more fun I think," said Casey O'Brien, a member of the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band.

O'Brien and the Rovers played on the only boat allowed inside the security zone where the river was being dyed Saturday morning. The boat, owned by Chicago-based Shoreline Sightseeing, parked itself right alongside the two speedboats that turned the river green.

Chip Collopy, co-owner of Shoreline, said it's the first time any boat has been allowed inside the security zone while the River was being dyed.

"It's through the plumbers union and the Shannon Rovers," he said. "They are the ones that organized the whole thing."

The end result was a different way of experiencing a Chicago tradition.

As the speedboats worked to dump the burnt orange dye into the river, doing laps to make sure the dye spread equally, O'Brien and his fellow Rovers played on, entertaining the masses on either side of the river while simultaneously being awed by their surroundings.

It was a uniquely Chicago scene, the kilted bagpipers juxtaposed against the lime green river on a chilly March morning.

"It's certainly a different perspective than we usually get," O'Brien said. "We're usually just playing on the side so being out on the river is certainly a unique experience."

It's an experience that Collopy and his employees had to work hard to turn into reality.

Collopy said that while the winter has been hard on his boats, there was never any doubt that they'd be ready in time for St. Patrick's Day.

"We were iced in until last week," he said. "It happens every year. It was certainly a little longer winter than we're accustomed to. We have a great staff that takes care of the boats."

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.


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