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Tarpon Springs' 99th Epiphany

Thursday is the annual Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs, commemorating the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. It is one of the Greek Orthodox Church's holiest days of the year, and Tarpon Springs hosts the largest celebration this side of Greece. Organizers expect about 20,000 people.

SCHEDULE

+ Wednesday

Epiphany banquet, hosted by the local chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. Cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral Center, 348 N Pinellas Ave. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at the door. Call (727) 420-6204 to buy tickets in advance.

+ Thursday

Epiphany day kicks off at 8 a.m. at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 36 N Pinellas Ave., with Orthros, the morning preparatory service. The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil will follow at 10 a.m. Around 12:15 p.m. the procession to Spring Bayou will begin, and the blessing of the bayou waters and cross toss will follow. Glendi, a festival of food, music and dancing, will be in Craig Park after the cross retrieval. There is a $2 entrance fee to the Glendi and Greek food and drink will be for sale.

+ Friday

Epiphany Ball, 7 p.m. in Theophilos Hall at the cathedral center. Tickets cost $ 35 for adults and $25 for children under 12. Call (727) 937-3540.

PEOPLE TO WATCH

Archbishop Demetrios, who will lead the Divine Liturgy and throw the cross.

Dove bearer Catherine Velardocchia, 14, a choir girl who will release the bird during the ceremony at Spring Bayou.

James Hughes, 17, who retrieved the cross last year. The boy who retrieves it this year will be one of 45, ages 16 to 18, who dive for the honor.

The Very Reverend Sebastian Skordallos, cathedral dean, who is celebrating his first Epiphany at the helm in Tarpon Springs.

Sources: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Tarpon Springs Police Department, Times files

Times graphic NORA KOCH, MICHAEL GUILLEN

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