Tarpon Springs High School student retrieves the cross in 111th Annual Epiphany Celebration

Posted at 4:17 AM, Jan 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-06 20:45:23-05

To much fanfare, a senior at Tarpon Springs High School emerged from the Spring Bayou this afternoon with a cross as part of the Greek Orthodox Church's 111th Annual Epiphany Celebration.

Joseph Cooley, 18, bested 47 other teens to retrieve the cross from the water. He was then carried by friends and family back to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral where the day had begun with a prayer service.

The celebration honors the Baptism of Jesus Christ by St. John the Baptist in the River Jordan.

"It feels amazing," Cooley told ABC Action News immediately afterwards. "It was just awesome, every bit of it."

Parts of Tarpon Avenue and Alternate U.S. 19 were closed for much of the days events, which drew nearly 25,000 people this year. For many, the highlight of the event is the dive for the cross in the Spring Bayou.

Today's weather was perfect for the event. The temperature outside was in the mid-70's. The water temperature was around 70 degrees. Some previous dives have yielded much more frigid water temperatures.

Before the popular cross diving event, a service start the events 8:00 a.m. at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 36 N Pinellas Ave.

Any male age 16 to 18 baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church and a current member in good standing in one of the Bay Area Parishes can participate in the cross dive.

The person who retrieves the cross is said to be blessed with a year of good luck.

Following the retrieval of the cross, the Glendi Festival began, featuring live music, dancing and plenty of food at Spanos-Pappas Community Center Theophilos Hall.

For more information on the Epiphany celebration, visit