TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. - Thousands of people are packed into Tarpon Springs' Spring Bayou for the annual Epiphany Day celebration. The event honors the Baptism of Jesus Christ by St. John the Baptist, in the River Jordan.
Almost 50 boys will swim for the coveted cross. Pete Kontodiakos says coming to the Spring Bayou brings back memories. He retrieved the cross in 2009, following in his dad and uncle's footsteps. Kontodiakos said, "I picked it up and you just pause for a moment. You're like wow. You just come up with it. It's an indescribable feeling."
Whoever retrieves the wooden cross is said to earn a year of blessings. But, last year, organizers had to throw a second cross into the water, because no one could find the first one.
In the end, four boys were blessed. Organizers say they won't have that problem this year and will have only one winner. Emmanuel Gombos is helping put the celebration together. Gombos said, "I've notified the boys this year there will not be a second cross. They will have to search until they find it."
Organizers also moved the event's Glendi, or song and dance celebration. Gombos said, "That will be taking place because of the inclement weather. We've changed the location to the Pinellas Avenue large hall that we have."
Rain or shine, owners at the Sunbay Motel hope to make a profit. They've been booked solid for the last month, seeing double the business compared to a regular weekend. Peter Fanoudis is the motel's owner. Fanoudis said, "Many people from all over the country. They are coming down. Basically the Greek people from the Greek community because they know about this holiday."
Organizers expect 30,000 to 35,000 people to join in the celebration.
The Epiphany takes place at Craig Park, in Tarpon Springs.
Before the popular cross diving event, a service will start Sunday's events 8:00 a.m. at Spanos Pappas Community Center Theophilos Hall in Tarpon Springs to begin the day's celebrations.
The blessing of the waters will commence at 12:30 p.m. and a traditional litany procession to the Spring Bayou begins.
At 1:00 p.m., a dove will be released and then the cross dive will commence.
Following the retrieval of the cross, the Glendi Festival featuring live music, dancing and plenty of food will take place from 2:30 to 6:00 p.m, at the St. Nicholas Community Center Spanos-Pappas Hall, on 348 N. Pinellas Avenue
Admission to the festival is free.
Parts of Tarpon Avenue and Alt. U.S. 19 will be closed from about 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
For more information on the Epiphany celebration, visit www.epiphanycity.org.