Our 2015 Illuminations are underway!

Top prize winner Ian Page was ecstatic as the fabulous decorated boats once again stole the show at the opening night of Derbyshire Dales District Council's 2015 Matlock Bath Illuminations.

This year's festival - the 118th - burst into life on Saturday (12 September) and will run every weekend until 31 October in the District Council's picturesque Derwent Gardens, with a fireworks finale on every remaining Saturday.

Mickey's Steam Boat, the decorated boats winner designed by Ian PageAnd Ian's 'Mickey's Steamboat' earned the Cromford boat builder first prize in the boats competition and the Arkwright Cup, donated in 1903 by Sir Richard Arkwright, the Centenary Cup, plus a cash prize of £270.

His craft will be on show every weekend, along with eight others, in the unique parade of decorated boats that are rowed up and down the River Derwent during the Illuminations.

Ian declared: "This has made my year!" as he danced a merry jig to the Derwent Gardens bandstand when compere Geoff Stevens announced his was the top boat this year.

Second prize went to last year's winners Christine Dence, Richard Wood and Pete Hartshorn (The Motley Bunch) with their entry 'May The Force Be With You'. They won the Plumtree Cup and £235.

Dr Who by Isabel FlavellIn third place was 'Dr Who the Lost Episode', designed by Isabel Flavell of Matlock Bath. She won the Sheffield Wire Rope Cup and £205, followed by 'International Rescue' in fourth, designed by David Gregory of Matlock, competing for the 45th consecutive year. David took home the Dave Sanderson Trophy and £170.

Judges are selected at random from the opening night crowds and it's a friendly competition, with all none prize winners receiving £165.

Making up this year's Illuminations flotilla are 'Postman Pat' by Paul Henshall from Matlock, 'Eiffel Tower' by Michael Hall from Ashbourne, 'SpiderMan' by Mathew Hall from Ashbourne, 'Ice House' by Rory Harrison from Ashbourne and 'Sonic' by David Harrison from Ashbourne.

Boats on the river 2015The opening night parade wasn't without incident as Ian Page temporarily lost an oar attempting to rescue Paul Hensall's becalmed 'Postman Pat'. 'Mickey's Steamboat' went round in circles mid river for several minutes before Ian managed to retrieve the oar, bringing a huge cheer from the crowds lining both river banks.

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.

Candle boat 2015 designed by pupils from Matlock's Highfields SchoolThe impressive opening night crowds cheered as the parade of boats took to the water, headed by a candle-lit model - put together by all the boat builders to show how models used to look when the tradition started over a century ago. This year's boat has a Halloween theme designed by pupils at Matlock's Highfields School.

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. The Gardens and nearby Lovers' Walks are also bedecked with colourful lights.

Laser show 2015Chairman 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."

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