TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The 2023 River O’ Green Fest kicked off at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa on Friday.

The annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration is taking place on the holiday for the first time since 2018. The festival was moved to Friday due to inclement weather forecasted for Saturday.

The free festival began at 4 p.m. when Mayor Jane Castor sounded the horn to signal crews to begin dyeing the Hillsborough River green. Despite a recent petition from wildlife advocates and community members calling for an end to the tradition, the city maintains that the dye is safe.

According to a release from the Tampa Downtown Partnership, “the dye is non-toxic, biodegradable, and certified to meet National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) Standard 60 for use in and around drinking water.” The dye has been approved for use by the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission.

“Dyeing the river green is just a really unique iconic way for people to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Other cities have done this for quite some time,” said Shaun Drinkard, Vice President of District Services Tampa Downtown Partnership. “We were fortunate to take on the tradition and make it another great day to celebrate a holiday in downtown Tampa.”

The festival offers live entertainment, kid-friendly activities, food, and of course, beer. Festivalgoers can watch demonstrations of hurling, which the Tampa Downtown Partnership describes as “a wild Irish mix of hockey, baseball, and football.”

Your furry friends can also get in on the festivities with the pet costume contest at 7 p.m.

Schedule of Events:

  • 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Live music from Family Funk
  • 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Hurling demonstrations
  • 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. – Live music from Phoenix5
  • 7 p.m. – Pet costume contest
  • 7:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. – Live music from Phoenix5

River O’ Green fest runs from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. You can read more about the festival on the Tampa Downtown Partnership website.