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Saturday, Sep 22, 2018
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Hundreds watch Tampa’s signature river turn green for St. Patrick’s Day

TAMPA — After six years of turning the Hillsborough River a bright Kelly green for the Mayor’s River O’Green Fest, the crew charged with the task have picked up a few tricks.

First, it takes about 250 pounds of biodegradable powder dye to change the river, said Richard Snider, 39, a production tech at the city’s water department.

Second, dumping the powder, which is orange, directly into the river on a windy day results in a lot of it flying back.

"The first year we did this I looked like a Cheeto," Snider said.

Hundreds dressed in green and wearing shamrock beads lined up on the river’s edge at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Saturday to watch the color change.

This is the first time since 2012, when Mayor Bob Buckhorn started the annual event, that the St. Patrick’s Day celebration and the actual holiday shared the same day.

Among those who came to see the change were Tampa residents Matt and Ilyssa Corbett and their 9-month-old daughter, Cali.

"Now that we have her we don’t do the bar crawl anymore," Ilyssa Corbett said. "Now we come to the family fun events."

Many took to the water in boats, kayaks and standing paddle boards.

Ashley Jasenec and Brenton Wayland sat in a motorized dinghy with a cooler and their French bulldog, Lucy, who was the only one wearing a life jacket.

"She doesn’t swim so good," Wayland said with Lucy on his lap. "But she likes being in the water."

Green isn’t the only color the water department has tried on the river, said production manager John Ring, 52.

"We tried to turn the water blue one year for the Lightning, but that doesn’t work well," he said.

This is the seventh year Ring has assisted with the greening of the river. Originally from Chicago, he saw his hometown do the same for decades.

"It’s nice to know we are building a tradition here," Ring said.

The crew premixes the dye and shoots it out of two hoses placed on the end of a 26-foot long Carolina Skiff. Most of the year, the boat is used to keep the river from turning green, said Brad Baird, administrator of Public Works and Utility Services.

"The other 364 days of the year, the boat sprays the river for algae control," he said.

Parts of the river were likely to stay green until later Saturday, said Seung Park, a chief engineer at the Water Department.

After excitement for the dyed river died down, people wandered to the park to listen to Irish folk music and eat from several pop-up vendors.

Despite hundreds of gallons of green water, none of the three tents selling alcohol sold green beer, a point not missed by 22-year-old Bob Taylor of Tampa.

"Yeah, I looked for it but I guess they don’t have it this year," he said. "I mean, oh well, I’ll stick with my Bud."

Contact Jonathan Capriel at (813) 225-3141 or [email protected] Follow @jonathancapriel.

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