The event’s unique parade of decorated and illuminated boats took to the River Derwent for the first time in 2021 and will be the centrepiece of the Illuminations entertainment organised by Derbyshire Dales District Council every weekend until 31 October.
With the maximum capacity in Derwent Gardens reduced to 4,000 this year, already all of this year’s October fireworks nights are sold out.
District Council Leader Councillor Garry Purdy said:
“Covid caused the cancellation of last year’s Illuminations but we were determined to bring it back for a 123rd year in 2021, albeit on a slightly reduced scale.
“The feedback from the first weekend is that Illuminations visitors are delighted to be back – and the boats are breathtakingly spectacular.
“We are proud as a council to make the Illuminations happen and provide a much needed boost for local businesses, effectively extending the tourist season here in the Derbyshire Dales. We reckon this historic event attracts as many as 100,000 visitors into the area during its eight-week season.”After a lights switch-on performed on Saturday by the Civic Chairman of the Derbyshire Dales, Councillor Steve Wain, almost 2,000 visitors – the second highest first night total since the District Council took over the event 37 years ago – cast their votes for their favourite of the eight boats on show
Winning - in a roundabout way - was David Harrison's fabulous carousel model.
David, from Ashbourne, a leading light in the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders' Association, will have the honour of leading out the 2021 parade every weekend until the end of October. David was presented with the Arkwright and Centenary Cups, plus a £1,000 cash prize.
Poignantly, the six horses on David's model are named after and dedicated to some big Illuminations supporters who have passed away in recent times: Irene, George, Joyce, Dave, Beryl and Mary.
In second place with his Ghost Busters car Ecto-1 was Cromford's Ian Page, who won the Plumtree Cup and a £900 cash prize, followed in third by Sonic the Hedgehog and Dr Eggman by the Matlock-based Motley Bunch - Christine Dence, Richard Wood and Pete Hartshorn. They won the Sheffield Wire Rope Cup and an £800 cash prize.
In fourth place, competing for a 50th year, was Matlock's David Gregory with the Convert-a-Car from Wacky Races, winning him the Dave Sanderson Trophy and a £700 cash prize.
The winners were announced before the boats paraded on Sunday by Geoff Stevens MBE, compering the event for a 53rd year, assisted in the Derwent Gardens bandstand by his wife Jacquie.
It's a friendly competition, with all non-prize winners receiving £600. Completing this year's spectacular parade are Paul Henshall, also approaching 50 years as a competitor, with Lockdown Express, and Ashbourne trio Michael Hall with his Ocean Rescue, a tribute to the RNLI, Matthew Hall with A Tribute to Captain Sir Tom and Rory Harrison, with Mack from the 'Cars' film series.
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 a tribute to the NHS and all other providers of essential services – inspired by students at Matlock’s Highfields School. It is lit with more than 60 night lights.
Sundays at the Illuminations feature special family oriented themed nights, continuing with a ‘Fairy Tales’ event on 19 September. Tinkerbelle, Snow White and Rapunzel characters will tour the Gardens and youngsters are encouraged to attend in fancy dress.
It continues to be free for accompanied under 16s to attend the Illuminations. This year adults pay £5.50 on non-fireworks nights if they buy online in advance at www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/illuminations - £1.50 cheaper than on-the-night tickets. Concessions are available for OAPs and disabled visitors.
Park and Ride services will operate from 5pm-10.30pm on the sold out fireworks Saturdays on 9, 16, 23, 30 and 31 October from Cromford Meadows to Matlock Bath Pavilion.