Ellenton teen retrieves Epiphany cross in Tarpon Springs - WFLA News Channel 8

Ellenton teen retrieves Epiphany cross in Tarpon Springs

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Peter Smith, 18 of Ellenton, retrieved the cross at the 2014 Epiphany celebration. Peter Smith, 18 of Ellenton, retrieved the cross at the 2014 Epiphany celebration.
Peter Smith, 18 of Ellenton, retrieved the cross at the 2014 Epiphany celebration. Peter Smith, 18 of Ellenton, retrieved the cross at the 2014 Epiphany celebration.
A teen from Ellenton has retrieved the 2014 Epiphany cross in Tarpon Springs.

Peter Smith, age 18, retrieved the cross shortly after it was thrown into the chilly waters of Spring Bayou on Monday afternoon.

"I’m just so grateful to be given this opportunity to dive for the church and my family... I just couldn't be more proud," said Smith, who was born in Sarasota but now lives in Ellenton.

43 boys, ages 16 to 18, participated in the cross dive. The boys dove into the water, then swam to dinghies where they waited for the cross to be thrown into the water. Two of the dinghies tipped over before the cross dive.

The boy who retrieves the cross is said to be blessed. The annual ritual is part of the Greek Orthodox Church Epiphany liturgy and celebration.

The church activities began at 8 a.m. with the official liturgy from 9 to 12:30 p.m. at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Early Monday morning, Tarpon Springs police divers and boats searched the bayou to make sure it will be safe for the boys. Last year, they found a shopping cart and fake crosses. In years past, manatees have been spotted.

The water temperature for today's cross dive was 62 degrees.

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