TAMPA — A wave of green washed through downtown Tampa on Saturday, in time for Mayor Bob Buckhorn's annual River O'Green St. Patrick's Day celebration.
The Hillsborough River was dyed a bright Kelly green as thousands of people converged on Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, where they hopped in line for beer, food trucks and Irish-themed activities like jig contests and the Pot O'Gold bean bag toss.
“It's a signature event for Tampa,” said Buckhorn, who began hosting the festival in 2012.
People stood in line to take pictures with the Irish mayor, who came decked in green shamrock trousers and beads.
His goal was to make the water greener than the city of Chicago's river in its annual St. Patrick's Day celebration.
“I think we definitely succeeded,” Buckhorn said. “This river is probably greener than any river in the country on St. Patrick's Day. I love that.”
Boat crews were out on the water throughout the festival, which ran from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., pouring the rust-colored dye into the water. The dye used in the river is a potable variety, non-toxic and biodegradable, city officials say.
The River O'Green celebrates Buckhorn's Irish heritage, he said, and also gets people to come downtown to spend a beautiful Saturday on the river. He estimated this year's River O'Green attracted three times as many revelers as last year's.
Festival-goers came decked in green T-shirts, beads and knee-high stockings. Others dyed their beards or donned green wigs. Even some of the four-legged attendees wore green bandanas or had their fur dyed emerald green.
Stephanie Pillar and Brad Krites, both of Tampa, came out to see the green river. They wore matching plaid kilts, and Krites had a green top hat.
“It's a great excuse to get outside, get downtown and have fun,” Krites said.
“And wear kilts,” Pillar added.