Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Blessings times three

TARPON SPRINGS — Louis Mailisand and Miros Petru have shared many experiences together.

They are cousins. Both attend Tarpon Springs High School. And on Friday, both climbed into the same dinghy, then dived into the chilly waters of Spring Bayou in search of a white cross and blessings from the Lord.

In a rare although not unprecedented twist, both teens retrieved crosses during Tarpon Springs' Epiphany celebration Friday and were honored as 2012 cross retrievers.

The first cross tossed into the bayou by Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, could not be immediately located. The archbishop threw a second one and Mailisand came up with it. Then other boys searched for the first one and Petru soon thrust it into the air.

Hours later, Epiphany organizers announced that a third boy, Jared Alissandratos, who also had his hands on the cross Mailisand retrieved, would be named a 2012 retriever, too, and receive similar honors and blessings. Alissandratos also attends Tarpon High.

Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan. The cross dive is its centerpiece event.

"To dive is a blessing. To actually have it makes me feel even that much greater," Mailisand, 17, said moments after he climbed out of the water.

Added Petru, also 17: "It's doubly special in the fact that we're both cousins and we're family."

The cross dive capped a morning of solemn church services, followed by a processional. After the dive, celebrants gathered for the Glendi, or festival, where they ate Greek food and linked arms to perform a traditional line dance.

Tarpon Springs has achieved the label of "Epiphany City" because it has one of the largest such celebrations in the western hemisphere. Organizers estimate that about 20,000 people attended Friday's event.

This is the third year Detroit cardiologist Vicky Savas has made the trek with her father and son, Niko, who turned 3 on Friday. She said everyone at her church, St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox in Livonia, Mich., knows about Tarpon's celebration.

"All the Greeks know about it. This is the best one in the country," Savas said, adding that the annual event keeps her heritage alive.

"Sometimes we question whether this younger generation remembers our culture and religion. And I think this (large crowd) speaks volumes," Savas said. "It yells loud and clear that Greek Orthodox is alive and well."

Paula Renner and her husband, Art, drove up from Sarasota on Thursday afternoon and camped out overnight in their RV in hopes of snagging a prime seat for the church service.

Renner, a Methodist who loves experiencing other cultures, said visiting Epiphany has always been on her bucket list. She gasped as she entered St. Nicholas, marveling at the "ornate beauty" of the lighted candles, paintings and stained-glass windows.

"I've seen it advertised and I've heard about it, but I wanted to experience it," she said. "Watching the boys dive for the cross wasn't enough for me. I wanted to experience the service, because I think people miss a lot by going straight to the destination. I like the journey."

For 20-year-old dove bearer Anna Athanasatos, the journey from the church to the bayou wasn't as nerve-wracking as she had expected.

Leading the processional in her purple and white robes, Athanasatos gently clasped the white homing pigeon, then released it over the bayou just before the dive to symbolize the Holy Spirit.

She murmured, "Good birdie" to soothe the small creature.

"If you're calm, it's calm," she said.

Archbishop Demetrios tossed the first cross into the bayou near the observation platform at the bayou around 1 p.m.

Nearly 60 teenage boys swam toward it from the dinghies where they had been waiting, but were unable to find it after searching 41/2 minutes in the chilly, murky water. Several boys had to be treated by paramedics for cold exposure just prior to the toss.

The archbishop started to send the boys back to their dinghies, then announced a "change of plan" and told them to stay in the water. He then tossed a second white cross.

Michael Sakellarides, 18, of Tarpon Springs said he was elbow deep in mud. Yanni Kranias, 18, described the search as chaotic, but thrilling.

"We got kicked a lot. We got punched a lot. It was deep. You couldn't see anything," he said. "All I can say is I gave it my hardest. It's a great honor to be part of it even if we didn't win it."

A dripping wet Mailisand said he was "feeling good, feeling blessed" as his fellow divers carried him up Tarpon Avenue toward the cathedral.

From the spectators lining the route back to the church came cheers of "Bravo!" and "Congratulations, Louie!" and "Sweet Lou!"

Dive co-coordinator Michael Kouskoutis said Mailisand "has been around water all his life." He said Louis' dad, Manuel, who recently died of pancreatic cancer, ran a boat repair business.

Family friend Annette Alexiou Par broke into tears when she saw Mailisand enter the church.

"I'm so happy that it's him, because he's such a good kid," she said. "His father died not too long ago and (Louis) got baptized not too long ago."

At the altar, as he awaited the archbishop, Mailisand held a trophy in one hand and lifted the cross in his other to kiss it. Other divers and family members came forward to kiss the cross, as well.

Moments later, Petru arrived, also held aloft on divers' shoulders.

Petru, a senior at Tarpon Springs High School, described rubbing his hand in the mud until he felt the cross' smooth paint.

"I didn't even know that I had it until my hand broke through the water," Petru said. "When I saw it out of the water in my hand, it was the best feeling in the world."

The third diver honored, 16-year-old Jared Alissandratos, is a freshman at Tarpon Springs High and is the son of longtime dive co-chair Aleck Alissandratos, who snagged the cross in 1977.

It's not uncommon for the divers to tussle under the water as they try to reach the coveted cross.

Alissandratos said later Friday that he was the first one to grab the cross, then Mailisand grabbed it. He has no hard feelings.

"It was just trying to get to the cross, and I understand. Louie, who got the cross, is my friend, and I respect him," he said.

Epiphany co-chair Helen Giakoumis said, "Both boys got their hands on it at the same time, but Louis yanked it away and came up with it."

Father Michael Eaccarino, dean of St. Nicholas Greek, likened it to two people stooping to pick up a pen at the same time, with one grasping the pen harder or more quickly from the other.

But he decided that Alissandratos should also be honored.

"It's always God's will," he said.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.

   
Comments
French group to take over Westfield malls for $15.7 billion

French group to take over Westfield malls for $15.7 billion

PARIS ó French real estate company Unibail-Rodamco has agreed to buy Australia-based shopping mall operator Westfield Corporation for $15.7 billion in cash and shares.The companies would together have 104 shopping centers in 13 countries that bring i...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Find out Politifactís 2017 Lie of the Year; Alabama voters go to the polls; arraignment for accused Seminole Heights killer; Yankees may hasten Raysí dismantling

The Daystarter: Find out Politifactís 2017 Lie of the Year; Alabama voters go to the polls; arraignment for accused Seminole Heights killer; Yankees may hasten Raysí dismantling

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.10News WTSPThe latest 7-day forecastē Low temperatures continue this morning but itíll be pretty nice by the afternoon. Itíll be in the high 40s overnight and then start to rea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Obama, Biden and Trump make late pushes in Alabama Senate race

Obama, Biden and Trump make late pushes in Alabama Senate race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ó National political leaders, a Hollywood actress and a retired basketball star made last-ditch efforts to woo voters in the Alabama Senate race Monday, as the candidates gave their final arguments in a pivotal special election that ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: Come to Madeira Beach for the sand, sun and scorn

Romano: Come to Madeira Beach for the sand, sun and scorn

Forgive the folks in Madeira Beach for not yet updating the FAQs portion of their website. They’ve been quite busy lately, which might explain why three of the five commissioners listed are no longer in office. Or maybe it’s just a nod t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: Warm breezes across Tampa Bay ahead of fluctuating conditions

Forecast: Warm breezes across Tampa Bay ahead of fluctuating conditions

Chilly, windy, colder, sunny, warmer, rainy.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area This weekís inconsistent weather conditions will at least keep things interesting across the Tampa Bay area, even if it makes it difficult to de...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Tampa forum focuses on reforming Floridaís juvenile justice system

TAMPA ó Changing the way Florida treats juvenile offenders was the focus of Monday nightís public forum on criminal justice reform."We send more children to adult prison than any other state," said Raymer Maguire IV, manager of the ACLUís Florida Cam...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Jury selection in trial of Clearwater man charged with motherís death begins today

Jury selection in trial of Clearwater man charged with motherís death begins today

Jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday morning in the case of a 61-year-old man charged with beating his elderly mother to death.Daniel Edward Richards of Clearwater is charged with second-degree murder. He is representing himself during the tri...
Published: 12/12/17
Medical field accounts for 7 of 10 highest-paying jobs

Medical field accounts for 7 of 10 highest-paying jobs

The nationís highest-paying jobs donít quite track with the fastest-growing jobs in Florida. According to a new study released today by California-based CareerCast, the highest-paying jobs are largely in the medical field and require post-graduate de...
Published: 12/12/17
Ruskin artist to help poor kids build bikes reflecting their personalities

Ruskin artist to help poor kids build bikes reflecting their personalities

RUSKIN — Art meets transportation for a good cause in an after-school program where two dozen kids will create bicycles guaranteed to turn heads. The vision comes from Ruskin artist Michael Parker, who calls his prototype machine a "rat bike" ...
Published: 12/12/17
Party like itís Christmas in Narnia with these recipes perfect for tea time

Party like itís Christmas in Narnia with these recipes perfect for tea time

As a kid, I always looked for doors into other worlds. I blame Narnia. In C.S. Lewisí classic novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, four British children step through a magic wardrobe into Narnia, a world filled with talking animals and plenty ...
Published: 12/12/17