Kentucky Derby is May 1 - Host a Derby Party

Time to celebrate, party planning ideas, entertaining tips

One of the most fun events you could ever attend is the Kentucky Derby. The combination of the warm weather, people watching, crowds, beautiful horses and the 136 years of tradition make the day exciting and memorable. I have gone to Derby 5 or so times, in the infield (very, very casual) and to the bleachers (casual). I have yet to make it to the grandstand and wear a hat, but will someday. 

Kentucky Derby Invitation

I asked some of my college friends who live in Kentucky for some Derby Party ideas and received great tips. My AOPi roommate,  Amy, gave me these ideas for a fun in-home Derby Party:

Décor – The Derby is the “Run for the Roses” so incorporate roses into décor. For a formal party combine roses and silver, for a casual barbecue party,  pair roses and red checked linens.

Attire – Hats are a must. If children are attending set up an area where they can decorate their hats.

Food – All of the these menu suggestions can be made ahead (perfect):

Kentucky Hot Brown

Country Ham w/ bourbon glaze sandwiches

Beer Cheese w/veggies

Kentucky Bread Pudding

Derby Pie

Mint Juleps – must have and easy to make (recipe below)

Derby Racing – This is a great idea because it is easy to execute and requires no knowledge of the Derby horses. Throw all of the Derby horses names into a Derby hat and each family/guest draws a name. Have everyone contribute $5-$20 for the prize. Have 3 prizes Win-Place-Show.

The Derby and all of the prior races are televised throughout the day beginning at 11am on ESPN and the Derby will be televised from 5-6pm on NBC.


Mint Juleps 
recipe courtesy of Kentucky Derby

2 Cups sugar
2 Cups water
Sprigs of fresh mint
Crushed ice
Early Times Kentucky Whisky
Silver Julep Cups

No Derby Party is complete without the Mint Julep which has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. Each year, almost 120,000 Early Times Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. This is a feat that requires over 10,000 bottles of Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.

Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

The official mint julep glass is the most popular souvenir for Derby guests and will become a collector's items.  They make great gifts for your guests and look even better with the drink inside!

For more information on the Kentucky Derby including recipes and party supplies visit

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