TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — The 113th year of one of the country's largest Epiphany celebrations saw an 17-year-old emerge victorious.
Ilias Skandaliaris surfaced with the cross this year, and his family couldn't be more excited.
“It was a amazing. it’s a blessing. you don’t know — there are no words at all," his mother Katherina Skandaliaris said. “He wanted it so bad he could taste it.”
The Annual Tarpon Springs Epiphany Celebration honors the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River more than 2,000 years ago.
"I'm shaking right now. It’s a big blessing. it is. We’re very lucky,” Elias's godmother Maria Bowlin said.
The 100-plus year old tradition is a day-long affair which is highlighted by local teenage boys diving into Spring Bayou to retrieve a cross thrown into the water by an archbishop. The boy who surfaces with the cross is said to have good luck for the following year.
“It’s honestly an indescribable feeling," last year's winner Christian Chrysakis said.
“It’s like a right of passage," Christian Cooley, the 2017 winner, said. "And it’s awesome.”
Following the dive there is a huge celebration called the Epiphany Glendi which features food, drinks, live music and dancing.