Vassilios Harding emerged from a splashing crowd of teenage boys to grab the cross in Spring Bayou today as part of the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs.
Harding, 16, a junior at Tarpon Springs High School, came up with the cross in just 10 seconds. He is the son of Spanos and Tina Harding. His father, a boat captain, was in Key West and unable to attend the event.
Harding will receive a special blessing for the year for being the first to get the cross, which for this year contained less lead and floated on the top of the bayou.
The annual Epiphany celebration, now in its 107th year, brings more than 20,000 visitors to Tarpon Springs and celebrates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. The focal point of the event is when the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of America casts the cross into the murky waters of Spring Bayou, and dozens of teenaged boys between 16 and 18 years of age jump out of small boats to scour the bayou floor for it.
The annual tradition reflects the deeply spiritual character of the Greek community that has called Tarpon Springs home for generations.