110th Annual Epiphany Celebration in Tarpon Springs

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The Tampa Bay area's Greek Orthodox community celebrated the Epiphany Wednesday in Tarpon Springs for the 110th time. 

The event is called, "The Feast of Epiphany, The Feast of Lights." It celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ by Saint John the Baptist in the River Jordana.

The annual celebration lures in thousands of people from around area. It's the largest Epiphany event in the Western Hemisphere.

The highlight Wednesday was seeing 49 young men - none older than 18 - jump into chilly Spring Bayou to retrieve a cross. The retriever will then kneel with the cross before the archbishop for a blessing. Whoever finds the cross is said to receive a year of blessings.

It took only minutes for a swimmer to retrieve the cross Wednesday.

Those looking on included parents and other relatives. 

"It's not so much an athletic competition as it is a blessing for all of them to be able to participate in this" Nikki Gelep said. 

She and her husband had 16-year old twin divers this year. 

"Whatever happens happens but they're just happy to be able to participate in it," Paul Gelep said. "That's really the idea behind it, participating in something that has religious connotations to it, a great history and a great tradition."

An estimated 20,000 people watched 17-year old Anderson Combs of Hudson surface with the cross. 

His fellow divers then hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him to a traditional Greek feast a few blocks away.

Epiphany Observances began at 8 A.M. at the 110-year-old St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Along with the cross dive, there was food, dancing and music through 6 p.m.