Teenager Isabel Fox-Wood has scooped the top prize for the second year in a row in the Matlock Bath Illuminations showpiece event – the famous parade of decorated boats.
The 17-year-old’s ‘Lego Model’ earned the Matlock Bath boat builder first prize in the boats competition and the Arkwright Cup, donated in 1903 by Sir Richard Arkwright, and the Centenary Cup, plus a cash prize of £400.
Isabel won last year with her hippy camper van model and she’s now recorded two top spots since she started competing four years ago. She has the honour of leading the unique parade of boats at the Illuminations every Saturday and Sunday until 28 October.
Organised once again byyour District Council, this year's festival - the 120th - burst into life on 9 September, and, in a break from tradition, the prize giving took place during the second weekend, allowing Illuminations fans a week to vote for their favourite boat via Facebook.
Isabel’s boat, co-designed by Richard Wood, polled almost one quarter of the 562 votes cast, and second prize went to Christine Dence, Richard Wood and Pete Hartshorn (The Motley Bunch) with their entry ‘The White Pearl’, winning for them the Plumtree Cup and £380.
In third place was ‘Delorean Time Machine’, built and designed by Matlock’s David Gregory, who is taking part in the parade for a 47th consecutive year. He was presented with the Sheffield Wire Rope Cup and £360. In fourth place was 'All Aboard the Ninky Nonk’, designed by Paul Henshall of Matlock, competing for a 43rd year. He took home the Dave Sanderson Trophy and £340.
The winners were announced as the boats paraded on Saturday (16 September), and the prize giving took place last night (Sunday), with awards presented by Geoff Stevens MBE, who is compering the event for a 50th year. Geoff’s own Compere’s Prize, the Bill Beresford Memorial Shield, was shared by ‘Derwent Belle’ by Ashbourne’s Matthew Hall, and F35B Lightning 2 by first time entrant Harry Davidson of Matlock. ‘Derwent Belle’ was the theme of Geoff’s own boat that won the competition back in 1968, the year he compered the Illuminations for the first time.
It's a friendly competition, with all non-prize winners receiving £320. Making up this year's Illuminations flotilla are ‘Banana’, a Minions themed boat by Ashbourne’s Michael Hall, ‘Mario’, by David Harrison and ‘Luigi’, by Rory Harrison, both also from Ashbourne, and ‘Moana’s Adventure Canoe’ by Cromford’s Ian Page, competing for a 30th year.
The traditional candle boat, which goes out before the main parade and is constructed by all the boat builders to show how the models used to look a century ago, is ‘The Four Seasons’ – inspired by students at Matlock’s Highfields School. It is lit with more than 100 night lights.
Said Geoff Stevens:
“The illuminated and decorated boats have been central to the Illuminations throughout my 50 years. They are absolutely unique to Matlock Bath and are the big attraction that people come to see from all over the country.
"The boats are now so different to what they were back when I was taking part in the parade. The technology and work that goes into them is incredible and every year they amaze even me.
“I have to say that this year's parade is perhaps the best ever. It's particularly good to see the young boat builders coming through to back up those that have been on the river almost as long as I've been here. I get excited every year and hear the applause and remarks from the crowd and it's absolutely marvellous that we have something that people can't see anywhere else."
The parade of illuminated boats takes place from 7.45pm every Saturday and Sunday evening until 28 October (7.30 on October Sundays) and can be viewed from Derwent Gardens. The Gardens and nearby Lovers’ Walks are also bedecked with colourful lights and there’s a fireworks finale every Saturday.