TARPON SPRINGS — While rain likely wouldn't dampen the exuberant spirits of 48 boys who today will dive for the cross in this city's 107th Epiphany celebration, the forecast for wet weather has forced one significant change.
Organizers have moved the Glendi, a Greek festival that follows the annual Epiphany cross dive, indoors to the Spanos Pappas Community Center Theophilos Hall, 348 N Pinellas Ave.
Epiphany is Greek Orthodox Christians' commemoration of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist. Tarpon's observance is one of the largest in the western hemisphere and draws thousands of observers each Jan. 6.
Today's events begin with solemn religious services inside St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, followed by a colorful procession to nearby Spring Bayou, just west of the intersection of Alt. U.S. 19 and Tarpon Avenue. There Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, will preside over a ceremony at the water's edge, assisted by other Greek Orthodox clergy.
A white dove symbolizing the holy spirit will be released over the bayou, then the archbishop will hurl a white cross into the bayou. Forty-eight Greek boys ages 16 to 18 will leap from anchored dinghies into the chilly water in hopes of being the one to retrieve the cross and receive the archbishop's blessing.
The Glendi following the cross dive had been scheduled for Craig Park, adjacent to the bayou, but a forecast for a 60 percent chance of rain today led organizers to move the free festival indoors. It will include music, dancing, and plenty of food, including Greek specialties, for sale.
All Epiphany events are free and open to the public. Parking is first-come, first-served throughout the downtown and bayou area.
The events will close parts of Orange Street and Tarpon, Pinellas and Safford avenues from about 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. today.