Greek teen males carry on the tradition of diving for the cross during the annual Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6, 2009 in Tarpon Springs.
TARPON SPRINGS - Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009 marks the 103rd anniversary of Tarpon Springs’ annual commemoration of Epiphany.
Best known for its Greek character and its sponges, Tarpon Springs also is known for hosting the largest Epiphany celebration in the United States.
Tarpon Springs Mayor Beverley Billiris issued a proclamation on Dec. 16 declaring Jan. 6 the Feast Day of Epiphany in the city.
According to the proclamation, “the city of Tarpon Springs has been identified by history and tradition as the city in the United States with the longest consecutive celebration of the Feast Day of Epiphany.
Tarpon Springs has been officially designated as “Epiphany City.” It is home to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. St. Nicholas is the Patron Saint to spongers, shrimping and fishing seaman.
The 2009 Epiphany celebration begins at 8 a.m. with Orthros-Matins at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 36 N. Pinellas Ave, followed at 9:30 a.m. by the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral.
At noon His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta will celebrate the Blessing of the Waters.
At 12:30 p.m., the traditional procession to Spring Bayou will begin. The procession will include clergy, altar servers, visiting dignitaries, school children dressed in traditional Greek costumes, band, choir, the teen divers and the dove bearer with the white dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit.
When the procession reaches Spring Bayou, the dove bearer will release the dove and the about 65 teens of Greek descent will dive for the cross. Tradition says that whoever retrieves the cross will have good fortune and divine beneficence for the year.
The rest of the day and night, 1:30 to 9 p.m., is reserved for the Glendi at the Spanos-Pappas Community Center Theofilos Hall 348 N Pinellas Ave. The event will feature food, drink, live music and dancing. Admission is $2.
The Tarpon Springs Police Department announced several road closures and advises that traffic congestion is expected from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Large crowds and heavy foot traffic is expected in the areas of the church and Spring Bayou.
Alternate 19 will be closed in front of St Nicholas Cathedral between Tarpon Avenue and Orange Street. Tarpon Avenue also will be closed between Ring Avenue and Spring Bayou. Alternate 19 will be detoured at Pine Street and Lemon Street. Southbound traffic will detour to Pine Street; northbound traffic will detour to Lemon Street.
Alternate 19 also will be closed in front of the procession route from about 12:15 to 1 p.m. The procession will travel from the church east on Orange Street, south of Safford Avenue and west on Tarpon Avenue.