Organisers of the seventh annual Leeds Waterfront Festival say they hope the event will boost the profile of life by the river.
Hundreds of people attended events that stretched along the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal from the Thwaite Mills museum in Stourton to Granary Wharf in the city centre at the weekend.
Exact numbers of visitors have not yet been calculated but, despite dreary conditions on Saturday and more cloud on Sunday the festival is thought to have attracted more people than attended last year.
Lucy Whalley, project co-ordinator for Leeds Dock, which is being relaunched this year after changing its name from Clarence Dock, said: “Up until now the waterways have been a bit neglected – people come out of the railway station and go straight into town.
“It’s almost like Leeds has turned its back on the water whereas in other towns and cities the water is the main focus. That’s how it should be, and that’s what we want to do – to encourage people to spend more time by the water.”
Sue Jennings, from not-for profit organisation Aire Action Leeds, added: “The whole idea is to get as many people down to the waterways as possible – not just for two days of the year but all year round, because there’s something for everyone.”
Among the highlights of the two-day festival was the charity dragon boat race at Leeds Dock, which raised thousands of pounds for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Nineteen teams – many in fancy dress – took part, with a team from Capricorn Security paddling their way to victory ahead of a crew from Asda, who won the fancy dress prize for their Tour de France inspired French outfits.
For the first time there was also a floating stage, with 11 bands performing.
At Brewery Wharf visitors were entertained by drag queen act Camp Cooks, as well as Latin music and dancing. There was French food and activities, as well as a display of classic Citroen 2CV cars, at Victoria Wharf.
Market stalls selling arts and crafts and food were the main attraction at Granary Wharf.
Meanwhile family activties were on offer at Thwaite Mills.
Sarah Todd, who took her children David and Erin to the museum, said: “It’s a place that just breathes history and it’s a real reminder of Leeds’s heritage.
“The kids really enjoyed seeing the water wheel in action.”
Mark Barnett, who watched the dragon boat race at Leeds Dock, said: “The weather was pretty terrible, but there was a really good atmosphere nonetheless.”