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 theme party 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. And they’re off!
Kentucky Derby Party Decorations
The Triple Crown is referred to as “the race for the roses.” As such, roses are a traditional part of a Kentucky Derby party. 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.
2. 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 great additions.
3. Balloon Arch and Hedge
String a Kentucky Derby party-themed banner across your venue. It can have a catchy title like “Talk Derby To Me” or “Run For The Roses.”
5. 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. These creations can be miniature and placed on the main table or food table.
Kentucky Derby Party Favors
6. Reusable Cups
Cheers to the competitors! These cups can be customized to match the theme of your party.
7. Hand Fans
Things are starting to heat up as the race is about to begin! Let guests cool off with these hand fans that are perfect for catching a cool breeze inside or outside.
8. Drink Stirrers
Add a horse drink stirrer to your selected drinks to give a little decoration to the menu.
9. Lip Balm
Keep those lips minty, cool, and fresh with mint julep lip balm.
Lose your bet? Everyone can be a winner with this trophy to take home!
Kentucky Derby Party Food Ideas
11. 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. Serve your drinks in a real silver Julep cup or metal cups. 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.
12. 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 have a very similar flavor. You can even pick a cupcake topper that goes well with these treats.
13. 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.
14. Benedictine Salad
This salad is made of cucumber, cream cheese, salt, and mayo. It is the perfect refreshing food for a hot, summer day.
15. Sugar Cookies
Create cookies in the shape of Kentucky Derby symbols such as horses, horseshoes, and silks. These would be an adorable addition because they add that something sweet that every party needs.
16. 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.
17. Country Ham Biscuits
A Kentucky Derby party isn’t a Kentucky Derby party without a great appetizer of 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.
Kentucky Derby Party Games
18. 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! There are also other adult party themes that can go along with this game!
19. 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!
20. 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 with props.
21. Mad Hatters
When it comes to the Derby, the more outrageous the hats, the better. Have guests bring a straw hat, and provide bins of flowers, ribbons, fabric straps, sequins, beads, lace, feathers, colored wire, and glue for decorating. Time everyone or have them decorate as long as they would like to finish the job, then vote on the best design. If you would like more than one winner, create different categories for the guests to win such as “Most Elegant Hat,” “Craziest Hat,” and so on. You can then give out prizes or certificates to the winners.
20. 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.
23. 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 for more fun at 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.
24. 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.
25. 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.
Kentucky Derby Party Supplies
A signature item at any Kentucky Derby party, hats and fascinators are a must.
Decorate your tables with the perfect centerpiece of roses and horses to match the theme.
No party is complete without the plates matching.
Stay away from plastic cups and raise a toast with these glasses instead!
It’s always a good idea to match your plates and napkins for a theme party.
Kentucky Derby Party Invitations
31. Talk Derby To Me
Tell guests to “Talk Derby To Me” with these humorous invitations.
32. Run For The Roses
Get ready to run for the roses with these party invitations!
Remember, hats are a must for everybody at a Kentucky Derby party, so include a hat-themed element to your invitation.
34. Riding Derby
Jockey-inspired invitations will have guests riding derby!
35. Red and Gold
Use red and gold accents on your invitations for a touch of elegance.
36. Down and Derby
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.
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Written by Stephanie Castillo and Mackenzie Hogan
Edited by Anna Wertman, Arianna Corso and Ben Kennaley