A guide to Epiphany, Tarpon Springs-style

Crowds surround Spring Bayou in 2006 for the 100th Epiphany celebration as cross divers wait in boats.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2006)

Crowds surround Spring Bayou in 2006 for the 100th Epiphany celebration as cross divers wait in boats.

TARPON SPRINGS

Organizers have a few changes in store for the 103rd annual Epiphany celebration.

The first-ever Diver's Ball was to be held Saturday night to give younger participants a chance to dance the night away before the festivities begin in full force on Tuesday.

And this year's Glendi has been moved from Craig Park to the cathedral's community center and extended until 9 p.m.

The expanded Glendi will take the place of the annual Epiphany Ball. "We're trying to give people the opportunity to stay longer and eat more and dance more," said event co-spokeswoman Johanna Kossifidis.

The Glendi, which in Greek means "to have fun, to have a good time," said Kossifidis, will include live music, dancing and traditional Greek food.

This year, divers will head to the Glendi after the event to be honored. Normally, that takes place at the cathedral, but organizers said they decided to use the community center to provide more room for guests.

Organizers said they expect fewer spectators this year because of a weak economy and the fact the event takes place on a weekday when kids are back in school.

But the traditions passed down for more than a century haven't changed. The morning will start with church services, followed by a procession to Spring Bayou, where a young woman will release a white dove before a cross is thrown into the water.

The young man who retrieves the cross will receive a special blessing and, custom says, enjoy a year of prosperity.

Here's a look at the schedule of events and some of the traditions of the annual Epiphany, which celebrates Jesus' baptism by St. John the Baptist in the River Jordan.

— Rita Farlow, Times Staff Writer

The dove bearer

Each year, one young woman is chosen from the choir at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral to release the dove over Spring Bayou. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit and its release is the cue for the cross to be thrown into the bayou.

This year's bearer is Ioana Bociu, 18, a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Palm Harbor University High School. She is a member of the Levendia Greek dance group and the Greek Orthodox Youth of America and a volunteer with Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

The blessing of the fleet

At 11 a.m. Monday, clergy will bless the fishermen, their vessels and the water, and wish them safe and prosperous journeys, at the Sponge Docks on the Anclote River. Both commercial fishermen and recreational boaters will participate.

Tuesday's schedule

8 a.m. — Orthros/Matins at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 36 N Pinellas Ave.

9:30 a.m. — Divine liturgy at the cathedral.

Noon — Blessing of the waters by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta.

12:30 p.m. — Traditional procession with clergy, altar servers, visiting dignitaries, children dressed in traditional Greek costumes, band, choir, teen divers and the dove bearer with the white dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit. After the bearer releases the dove, Demetrios will throw the Epiphany cross and the dive to retrieve it will begin.

1:30-9 p.m. — Glendi at the Spanos-Pappas Community Center Theofilos Hall, 348 N Pinellas Ave., with food, drink, live music and Greek dancing. Admission is $2.

Procession

The procession will leave the cathedral at approximately 12:15 p.m. and travel east on Orange Street, south on Safford Avenue and west on Tarpon Avenue to Spring Bayou.

Traffic

Traffic congestion and detours can be expected from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. N Pinellas Avenue (Alt. 19) will be closed in front of the cathedral, between Tarpon Avenue and Orange Street. On N Pinellas Avenue, southbound traffic will detour to Pine Street and northbound traffic will detour to Lemon Street. Also, Tarpon Avenue will be closed between Ring Avenue and Spring Bayou. Questions? Call the police department's nonemergency phone number at (727) 938-2849 or City Hall at (727) 938-3711.

By the numbers


65

Number of cross divers this year


59

Number of cross divers in 2008


350

Number of volunteers


8,000 to 10,000

Number of spectators expected this year


15,000

Estimated number of spectators in 2008


103

Years that Tarpon Springs has celebrated Epiphany







A guide to Epiphany, Tarpon Springs-style 01/03/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 3, 2009 1:16pm]

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