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Epiphany is set to take place this weekend despite a rainy forecast

Teenage divers in Spring Bayou
Roberto Roldan
Divers in the annual Tarpon Springs Epiphany Celebration emerge from the water in 2018.

The 118th annual Epiphany is set for Saturday in Tarpon Springs. The celebration comes amid possible storms this weekend.

The annual Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs will take place this weekend, despite the chance for storms.

Epiphany, organized by the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist. During the ceremony — which is in its 118th year — boys between the ages of 16 and 18 dive into the waters of Spring Bayou to retrieve a cross.

Prior to the celebration, the cathedral will hold a Blessing of the Fleet at the Sponge Docks on Friday at 1 p.m. The sponge and fishing boats, divers, and local businesses are blessed during the ceremony, and sponge divers who lost their lives are remembered.

Epiphany begins on Saturday at 8 a.m. with Orthros and Divine Liturgy services at St. Nicholas Cathedral. His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, a Tarpon Springs native who retrieved the cross in 1974, will be in attendance.

Following a procession to Spring Bayou, the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America blesses the waters. The Gospel of the day is read and a white dove is released to represent the descent of the Holy Spirit.

This year’s dove bearer is 17-year-old Chloe Kotis, an active member of the cathedral. Her grandfather retrieved the cross in 1956, and her sister was the dove bearer in 2016.

The Archbishop then throws the cross in the water and the dive begins. The person who retrieves the cross is considered blessed for a year.

After the dive, the Glendi will be held at Craig Park at 1:30 p.m. The free event features live music, dancing and food.

The Epiphany Ball will be held at Spanos-Pappas Community Center at 7 p.m., celebrating the 50th anniversary of Archbishop Nikitas’ retrieval of the cross. Although the event is sold out, you can get dance only tickets at the door after 9:30 p.m.

The celebration comes amid a stormy weather forecast this weekend.

The National Weather Service says a frontal system is expected to arrive through Saturday morning and afternoon. The whole area has a slight risk for severe weather throughout the day. There will also be southerly winds ahead of the front at around 20 mph, gusting to 30 mph.

Meteorologist Megan Borowski, with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, said the storm will cause a few hazards.

“In terms of impacts, I’m expecting brief periods of heavier rain rates, and also a few damaging wind gusts. As of the latest guidance, locations along and north of I-4 can expect moderate to heavy rain rates before dawn Saturday,” Borowski said.

Borowski said there's also a low risk for some isolated tornadoes, especially in locations along the Gulf of Mexico, along with the risk for local flooding and a few damaging wind gusts.

Borowski said conditions will settle down Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning.

For more information on Epiphany, click here.

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