To outsiders, The Kentucky Derby is a just a big horse race with Mint Julep-drinking spectators decked out in seersucker suits and big hats. While those stereotypes are partly true, The Derby is much more. It’s a unique sporting event unlike any other, combining century-old traditions with a festival atmosphere, style and plenty of fun.
You may not be able to attend The Derby, but you can host a party to make your guests feel as though they’re front and center for the most exciting two minutes in sports. Follow our Ultimate Kentucky Derby Party Checklist, devised with advice from Louisville locals and Derby experts, to bring you the ultimate Kentucky Derby Party to your home!
- If you’d like an elegant affair, a.k.a. “Millionaire’s Row Style Party,” use crystal, white linens and china.
- For a casual gathering, use checkered table cloths, disposable plates, or order the official party supplies of the Derby.
- The Derby is known as “The Running of the Roses”, so play it up by arranging red roses in either a large centerpiece or by scattering small arrangements around your space.
- Use fresh mint for it’s wonderful fresh scent and great eye appeal. Purchase small mint plants and cover the base of each pot with silver foil. Display them on the tables and around the party.
- Use silver accents around the party. You don’t have to use real silver, but the items should catch the eye and sparkle. We love using silver spray paint on empty wine bottles and then grouping them together on the mantle!
- Add more decorative flair with silk or silk-like fabrics, horse shoes, framed pictures of horses, binoculars and betting cards.
Fun and Games
- Encourage guests to wear extravagant hats and award prizes for the best.
- Order official programs and/or racing forms.
Invite your friends to dress the part. Seersucker, big hats, floral dresses or even jockey silks.
- Run “Betting” Pool: Place the names of all of the horses in a hat. Mix them up and have each guest pull a name. Once the race is over, award a prize to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners, also known as the “Win, Place, and Show” horses.
- “My Old Kentucky Home”, the official song of The Derby, is traditionally sung right before the big race. Print out the lyrics (see below) and encourage everyone to sing along.
- Make sure your television is in a spot large enough for people to gather around.
- The menu can range from a formal luncheon buffet to a barbecue.
- Traditional: serve a buffet with finger/tea sandwiches, dips (including the Louisville specialty “Benedictine”), Burgoo, cheese grits and assorted salads. If your affair is more casual, serve barbecue or fried chicken, and “cookout-style” sides such as corn on the cob, green beans, potato salad and biscuits.
- Modern: plan a southern barbecue with ribs, biscuits, corn on the cob, and salad. Use red and white checked tablecloths. Decorate with spring flowers or roses. And if you collect horse figures, don’t forget to pull them out to decorate your tables.
Pick and choose from these traditional menu items, recipes included with each:
Sweet, spiced pecans
Benedictine(Use as a sandwich spread or as a dip)
Mint Juleps are a MUST. Their are plenty of recipes on the internet, here’s one of our favorites.
New South Lemonade, also known as a KenFünfy Colonel
MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME
By Stephen Foster
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor
All merry, all happy and bright;
By’n by hard times comes a knocking at the door
Then my old Kentucky home, Good-night!
Weep no more my lady. Oh! Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home, far away.”
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