Tarpon Springs teen retrieves Epiphany cross

Tarpon Springs High School student Joseph Cooley, 18, retrieved the Epiphany cross in 2017.

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) – Thousands of people packed Tarpon Springs for the annual Epiphany celebration on Friday.

The 111-year-old tradition celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan.

Joseph Cooley, 18, of Tarpon Springs, emerged with the cross minutes after jumping into the Spring Bayou. He will receive blessings throughout the year.

This is Cooley’s third and last year participating in Epiphany. He is a senior at Tarpon Springs High School.

Cooley and his family attend St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral and have for years.

Cooley is involved with youth groups and other organizations at the church.

“I feel awesome, there’s no way to describe it,” Cooley said moments are retrieving the cross.

Cooley was carried back to the church, where the celebration continued.

Dozens came from all over for the celebration.

Theo Vavlas traveled from Greece. It was his first time witnessing Epiphany in Tarpon Springs.

“I’m so excited to see because never in my life I see like this,” he said.

Vavlas’s nephew, Bobby, also sat on the banks of the Bayou to watch. Bobby also participated in Epiphany when he was in high school.

“Coming over here to see the younger kids and the younger generations to carry it on, it means a lot to us,” he said.

Following the ceremony, an Epiphany Glendi (festival) with food, drink, live music and dancing will be held at the St Nicholas Community Center.

There will also be shows of traditional Greek dancing performed by the Levendia, the nationally award winning Greek dance troupe, as well, as other local and national dance groups.

At the Glendi, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios will honor the Epiphany divers and the cross victor.

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