TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — A 16-year-old who was diving in the annual Tarpon Springs Epiphany Celebration for the first time is this year's cross retriever.
Alex Makris, of New Port Richey, said he dove to the bottom, stayed calm and grabbed the cross.
"It was amazing," Makris said. "I had all my friends hoisting me up. We're all proud of each other, you know."
He added that it was a "dream come true" to be holding the cross.
The annual event celebrates the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist.
“As the week nears my adrenaline pumps. For me, I look at the epiphany day as a reaffirmation of my faith,” said Mike Kouskotis, the Chairman of the Divers.
The religious ceremony is considered the largest Greek Epiphany celebration in the Western Hemisphere.
Dozens of young men dove for the symbolic wooden cross. The successful retriever is promised a year of blessings and good fortune.
This year, unlike last year, a full crowd is allowed to attend the ceremony.
“I know all the families will be here because they are going to want to see their children participate. We have a high school band this year. And the young kids in their traditional costumes participating,” said Kouskotis. “We didn’t have that last year. And so some of what you’ll see this year is getting back to normality.”
While the ceremony is back to normal, the traditional Glendi festival of music and food that usually follows the dive is once again canceled.
Nevertheless, the excitement is back as the tradition continues.