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Tarpon Springs Epiphany will be closed to the public for the first time in 115 years

Posted at 6:08 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 09:44:12-05

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — The Epiphany will go on! Tuesday night, leaders in Tarpon Springs are set to discuss changes to an event that attracts more than 20,000 people to the Greek town every year.

For the first time in 115 years, the event will be held without spectators.

The Epiphany Greek Festival has been a staple in Tarpon Springs since 1906, but it’s sure to look very different on Jan. 6, 2021, as teens jump into Spring Bayou to retrieve a cross.

Originally, the church submitted a plan to the city of Tarpon Springs with a worse case scenerio saying just 18 teens, ages 18 and older, would be allowed to jump into the water for the cross. Jerry Theophilopoulos, the attorney representing St. Nicholas Cathedral, now says 55 divers will partake in the blessing ages 16-18. The boys will only be allowed to each have two family members there to watch.

The divers will have to wear a mask leading up to the plunge into the water and will be given a new mask to put on immediately after climbing out of the bayou, according to a plan submitted to the city by event organizers.

The ceremonial procession and popular Glendi Celebration after-party are also canceled and there will be limited capacity allowed inside St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Lily Wilkie, an employee at Madeline’s Falafel and Shawarma near the church says it’s going to feel a lot different this year.

“A lot of kids my age have been waiting to do this since they were little. They see their older brothers do it and then it’s finally their turn. Yeah, it is a change and will not be as big as last year, but I think it will still be exciting,” she said.

Rachael Vega, who attended the Epiphany last year, agrees.

“It’s sad but it’s understandable," Vega said.

Police officers will also close off Craig Park to the public to keep spectators from gathering.

“We’re always all excited and celebrating but this year it’s definitely gonna be different. It’s weird and it’s a weird feeling,” Wilkie added.

Downtown Tarpon Springs businesses are gearing up for another loss in a year full of challenges, but most everyone agrees: They’re just happy the event will go on, in some capacity, for the 115th year.

“It all comes down to that. The tradition and being able to keep going,” Vega said.

Several signs encouraging masks and social distancing will be placed around the church and Spring Bayou Dock.

The event will be streamed online by St. Nicholas Cathedral on the day of the event. It will be broadcast on the church’s website, according to the event plan.