Crowds came out in droves for the opening weekend of Matlock Bath’s cherished illuminations festival.
People flocked to the riverbanks of Derwent Gardens to witness the amazing new array of waterborne floats on Saturday and Sunday and were treated to a brilliant pageant of fun floats, from the Eiffel Tower to the Tardis.
Serving as a preview, the opening night gave judges a chance to see the boats before people turn out in their thousands over the next six weeks.
There was some drama on the water as Mickey Mouse’s steam boat went berserk, losing control and spiralling in the water as driver Ian Page lost an oar while trying to help Postman Pat, who had been becalmed and struggled to get away from the riverbank.
Luckily no major collisions were had but there were slight bumps into the vintage pumpkin design and Thunderbird Four.
And there were sympathetic cheers from spectators as he recovered it for the return journey up the Derwent, and the Disney Mouse was later declared winner of the competition so father and son team Ian and Mark Page will now lead the procession after the old-fashioned candle-lit model, which has been a staple since the festival’s centenary 18 years ago.
Top prize winner Ian Page was ‘ecstatic’ as Mickey’s Steamboat earned the Cromford boat builder the Arkwright Cup, donated in 1903 by Sir Richard Arkwright, as well as the Centenary Cup and a cash prize of £270.
Ian, who has been trying to win the competition since his last award 19 years ago, declared: “This has made my year!”. He was so excited as compere Geoff Stevens announced his victory, he danced a merry jig to the Derwent Gardens bandstand.
Illuminations staple Paul Henshall, who famously sank his Titanic model in a previous year, wound up stranded in his red delivery van due to motor trouble, said Derbyshire Dales District Council.
There was also an incredible display from the well-timed entry from Obi Wan Kenobi, as we gear up towards the release of the new Star Wars. The Jedi’s model was nothing short of a ‘tour-de-force’, with a fantastic animation of a dogfight between an X-wing and a TIE fighter, and last year’s winners Christine Dence, Richard Wood and Pete Hartshorn won second prize of the Plumtree Cup and £235.
Judges were selected at random from the opening night crowds and it’s a friendly competition, with all nine prize winners receiving £165.
The boat judges were Elisha Travers-Ayre and Josh Simpson from Derby, Bridget Riches and Johnathan Cooper from Great Yarmouth and L Brannington and P Fawcett from Cleveland.
Holly Thorpe, 10, from Osmaston and Elisha Wood, 8 from Stapleford, Notts, helped singer Max Restaino push the switch in the Derwent Gardens bandstand to officially start the 2015 season.
Chairman of the District of the Derbyshire Dales Councillor Albert Catt, who presented the awards at the end of the night, said: “After superb entertainment and a laser show, which is a fabulous addition this year, it was once again the decorated boats that brought gasps of appreciation from the first night crowds.
“The moment all of the boats switched on their lights on the Derwent was absolutely stunning.
“The Illuminations really are a unique family experience and we as a District Council are proud to stage the region’s biggest autumn attraction, which we hope once again brings in 100,000 people to Matlock Bath to boost tourism, trade and jobs locally.”
The parade of illuminated boats takes place from 7.45pm every Saturday and Sunday evening until 31 October and can be viewed from Derwent Gardens, Matlock Bath. The Gardens and nearby Lovers’ Walks are also bedecked with colourful lights, and from now on there will be a fireworks display every Saturday.
Book online to beat the queues at www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/Illuminations.