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Special visitors to arrive from Greece for Epiphany celebration

TARPON SPRINGS — Epiphany City is about to get some very special guests.

A nine-member delegation from Kalymnos, Greece, one of Tarpon Springs' sister cities, arrives today for a weeklong visit that will culminate with the annual Epiphany celebration on Tuesday.

City officials said they hope to strengthen the cultural and economic exchange between their two cities. This is the second year in a row a Kalymnian delegation will be in town for Epiphany, which is also celebrated in Kalymnos.

"The last time they were here they were very impressed with our city and the things our city has to offer and the work being done," said Mayor Beverley Billiris. "We want to talk to them about our reverse osmosis plant, the budget process … (and) where we're going."

Billiris said she also wants to discuss her city's green initiatives. This fall, Tarpon was designated a Florida Green City for its stewardship of the environment.

"I think that would be a wonderful concept to pass on to another city in another country," said Billiris.

This year, Kalymnos Mayor George Roussos will make the trip. He was unable to travel last year due to illness.

"It'll be a nice reunion for us," said Billiris, who met Roussos several years ago in Greece.

Many of Tarpon's original sponge divers immigrated from Kalymnos, the fourth-largest island in the Dodecanese chain. About 3,500 Kalymnians still call the area home.

"The mayor feels like part of his Kalymnos is here in Tarpon Springs," said City Commissioner Chris Alahouzos, a native of Kalymnos.

During the week, delegates will attend a New Year's Eve bash hosted by the local Kalymnian Society, which will also hold its annual conference Friday, and spend a day at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

On Monday, the group will meet with city and local Chamber of Commerce officials before heading over to the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College.

There, the delegates will discuss the possibility of a student exchange program and distance learning opportunities, Alahouzos said.

The delegates will leave Jan. 7, a day after the city hosts its 103rd annual Epiphany celebration.

Tarpon and Kalymnos became sister cities in 2002. Since then, the city has also paired up with two other Greek cities, Halki and Symi. In mid January, a delegation from Larnaca, in southern Cyprus, will visit to finalize Tarpon's fourth sister city arrangement.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Special visitors to arrive from Greece for Epiphany celebration 12/30/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 7:47pm]
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