Hundreds participate in Epiphany event

TARPON SPRINGS — Hundreds of people gathered in west Florida to celebrate the annual Epiphany.

Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America also visited this heavily Greek community northwest of Tampa for Tuesday’s annual Feast of the Epiphany celebration.

The liturgy was piped through loudspeakers over the Spring Bayou, where after a procession a dove will be released. Then an Epiphany cross will be thrown into the water and teenage boys will dive into the water to retrieve the cross.

This will give the retriever a special blessing, which according to custom, will bring him prosperity all year.

Aquarium holds contest

CLEARWATER — The dolphin that received national attention for getting a prosthetic tail will help a lucky couple exchange vows on Valentine’s Day.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is giving away a free wedding package, where one couple will be chosen to get married on a platform over the main dolphin pool. The aquarium’s dolphins — Nicholas and Winter — will assist in the nuptials.

Winter was found tangled in a buoy line when she was three months old. The line cut off the blood supply to her tail, causing it to fall off. She was eventually fitted with a prosthetic tail to help her swim.

Interested couples should submit a photo and explanation of why they should be chosen to weddingcontest(at) The winning couple will be chosen Jan. 19.

Reservists ship out

HOMESTEAD — More than 150 Air Force Reservists are set to depart from Homestead Air Reserve Base in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Members of the 482nd Fighter Wing will leave Tuesday as part of a larger deployment package involving more than 300 reservists.

They will be joined by reservists from the 301st Fighter Wing, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, Texas.

Representatives from the Air Force say many of the men and women leaving are on their second, third or fourth combat tour.

Ex- FAU director named chair

TALLAHASSEE — A Florida Atlantic University environmental director will lead a newly created commission responsible for the state’s energy and climate change programs.

Gov. Charlie Crist Tuesday named James F. Murley as chair of the Florida Energy & Climate Commission. His term will end Nov. 30, 2011 and is subject to Senate confirmation.

The commission was created in the 2008 legislative session. It will administer financial incentive programs and complete annual assessments of Florida’s Energy and Climate Change Action Plan. It will also provide recommendations to lawmakers.

Murley is director of FAU’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions.

Super Bowl pushes friendliness

TAMPA — Put your game face on, Tampa.

The Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee wants residents in the area to be helpful, courteous and welcoming to visitors in town for the big game Feb. 1.

The “Put Your Game Face On” campaign includes buttons, posters and other displays to be distributed at restaurants, stores and hotels. It will also feature happy voices on the radio and friendly, smiling faces on television, billboards and in print.

Reid Sigmon, the executive director of the host committee, says it’s simple: “Just be a great host.”

He adds that the community’s reputation for hospitality is part of the reason the Super Bowl is returning a fourth time.

Schools meal budget to be cut

TAMPA — The meal budget for Hillsborough County schools in the Tampa Bay area is going on a diet.

Hillsborough County is shaving $1.3 million from its $87 million annual meal budget by serving smaller hot dogs, plastic juice pouches and fewer chicken sandwiches.

The district raised lunch prices this year by 50 cents to offset rising food prices, but a greater percentage of families are qualifying for free meals.

By December, about 53.2 percent of applicants qualified for free or reduced price meals compared with to 50 percent last year.

That’s about 5,600 more students than last year.

— Herald wire reports