18 Kentucky Derby Party Ideas

The Kentucky Derby is traditionally run on the first Saturday in May. Kentucky Derby Day is a time when many people get together to have a party and watch the race. If you are looking for a reason to get together with some of your close friends and relatives, a Kentucky Derby party is a great idea. Be sure to follow your state’s guidelines on crowd size and social distancing. The list below consists of ideas for Kentucky Derby theme party games, menus, and décor.

Kentucky Derby Party – Food

Kentucky Derby Party: Food

1. Traditional Hot Brown Dish 

The epitome of Southern parties, this dish includes a gravy-like sauce that is poured over toast and turkey. It is then topped off with some delicious bacon.

2. Country Ham Biscuits

A great appetizer for your Derby Party is biscuits with ham. This is very simple to make and does not require many ingredients. If you would like to allow your guests options, make a few with honey mustard, a few with dijon mustard, and a few with butter.

3. Mint Julep 

The Mint Julep is the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby. The official Derby recipe consists of Woodford Reserve bourbon, crushed ice, sugar, water, and fresh mint. The drink is traditionally served in a real silver Julep cup. For a cheaper option, consider buying metal cups at your local party store. In addition to drinking the Mint Julep as is, you can also incorporate the tradition into mint desserts, such as mint cupcakes or ice cream. 

4. Jockey Jersey Sugar Cookies

Cookies in the shape of the jockey’s jerseys, also called silks, would be an adorable addition to the Kentucky Derby theme party. They also add that something sweet that every party needs.

5. Benedictine Salad

This salad is made of cucumber, cream cheese, salt, and mayo. It is the perfect refreshing food for a hot, summer day.

6. Grits Cakes with Pimento Cheese 

For traditional Southern-style food, there isn’t much better than some homemade grits. If you are worried your guests are going to find them too bland, Pimento Cheese adds a great kick. 

7. Derby Cupcakes

Why not take a traditional Derby pie (similar to a pecan pie) and change it into Derby cupcakes? This will allow all your guests to have a taste of Derby pie. If you are looking for an easy way to do this, regular vanilla cupcakes topped with crumbled pecans and mini chocolate chips are a very similar flavor. You can even pick a cake topper that goes well with the treats.

Kentucky Derby Party – Décor

Kentucky Derby Party: Décor

8. Horse Racing Theme

Get creative and make a stall, watering hole, or grandstand. You can even create all three! These can be made out of construction paper or cardboard. Decorating a door to look like a stall would be sure to make your guests smile. Labeling your drink station the “watering hole” is another simple way to add to the ambiance of the party. 

9. Bright Colors

Decorate with bright colors to tie your venue in with the jockeys’ colorful uniforms, also known as silks. Brightly colored tablecloths and napkins are a few ideas.

10. Roses

The Triple Crown is referred to as “the race for the roses.” As such, roses are a traditional part of the Kentucky Derby décor. You can incorporate roses into centerpiece decorations, or have them freshly cut in nice vases. If you want to get really creative, consider placing roses into the traditional silver julep cups. Your local florist is sure to have beautiful roses for you to choose from. 

Kentucky Derby Party: Games & Activities

Kentucky Derby Party: Games & Activities

11. Become a True Kentuckian

To make your guests feel like true Kentuckians in attendance at the Derby, order official Kentucky Derby Programs ahead of time and pass them out to your guests. You can also print out the words to Kentucky’s official state song, “My Old Kentucky Home,” and pass these out as well. This classic Kentucky song is played before the opening of every Derby so all of your guests will be able to sing along when it is played.

12. Let’s Bet

Make booklets for partygoers of all the statistics and information on the horse contestants. They can then read through the booklets and pick their winner. Set up a betting window for guests to walk up to and place their bets. You can do this with monetary bets, or simply give prizes to those who win. You can even give out a prize to whoever picked the losing horse as well!

13. Game of Luck

To make things a little more interesting, rather than betting, or even in addition to it, you can pair up each of your guests with a designated horse. Simply put all of the horse’s names into a hat and let your guests draw a random name. Whosever horse wins receives a prize!

14. Bluegrass State Trivia

The official Kentucky Derby site lists a lot of fun, interesting facts about the Derby. Browse through these facts and turn them into trivia questions to ask your guests! You can ask these questions throughout the party or turn it into a fun, competitive trivia game with a winner.

15. Kentucky Derby Fashion Party

Traditionally, race-goers are dressed to the nines. Have all your guests come decked out in their most fashionable Kentucky Derby attire. Don’t let the ladies forget their hats! You could even set up a runway and put on a fashion show, or simply have a “paparazzi” photo booth. 

16. Mad Hatters 

When it comes to the Derby, the more outrageous the hats, the better. Ask your guests to bring a straw hat, and provide bins of flowers, ribbons, fabric straps, sequins, beads, lace, feathers, colored wire, and glue for decorating. Give everyone fifteen minutes to finish the job — then vote on the best design. If you’d rather, you can allow everyone to decorate as long as they would like and then hold the vote after the race. If you would like more than one winner, create different categories for the guests to win. These categories could be “Most Elegant Hat,” “Craziest Hat,” and so on. You can then give out prizes or certificates to the winners.

17. Derby Lawn Games

Lawn games are a great addition to your party, especially if there are children in attendance. There are a variety of lawn games that you can add a Derby twist to in order to add even more fun to your party. . Cornhole is a classic party lawn game, and a custom made Kentucky Derby set is sure to impress your guests. Also, consider setting up a game of horseshoe to keep the Derby theme going.

18. Derby Playlist

To give your guests the full Derby experience, create a playlist with song genres ranging from southern rock, bluegrass, and country. Listen to the playlist throughout the party.


Even if you don’t follow horse racing, a Kentucky Derby party is sure to be a blast! If you are in need of any other event-related items, check it out here. There you will find local party suppliers, other event theme blogs and so much more.

Written by Stephanie Castillo
Edited by Anna Wertman
and Arianna Corso

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