Kentucky Derby Party Ideas

Often called the "most exciting two minutes in sports", the Kentucky Derby is run the first Saturday in May. It's all about the Mint Juleps, the big hats, and the excitement of Churchill Downs! If you can't travel to Louisville to partake in the party in person, bring the excitement of the derby to your home with these Kentucky Derby party ideas!

Kentucky Derby Invitations
Start the celebration off right with a personalized Kentucky Derby invitation. Everyone will be racing to RSVP to your Derby party!  Add some horse  confetti to the envelopes!

Another great option are Kentucky Derby ticket invitations! Your guests will know they have the best seat in town to watch the 137th "running for the roses" when they get this invite!

You can always make your own invitation, go with a rose theme. Style your wording after racetrack language; post time being the time the party will start, track location being your address, trainers being the host names, dress code being silks.

Don't forget to encourage your female guests to wear fancy hats, the more extravagant the better! You can let them know you will be awarding prizes (Win, Place and Show) to the top three fancy hats...prizes always get people excited!

Kentucky Derby Decorations and Party Supplies
Need more Derby party ideas? You can hang a sign on your front door that says...Welcome to Louisville--this way to Churchill Downs (home of the Derby!) A personalized Kentucky Derby banner is a great choice that will hold up to your party's wear and tear.

Another fun thing would be to give each person a horseshoe of fake flowers to wear as they enter. A rose lei or binoculars are another great option and super fun. Or save them for later, and give out to those lucky few who chose the Derby winner.

Decorate throughout with flowers. Use red since red roses are the flower of choice (red carnations are an ok substitute and much more cost effective). Small bouquets in silver julep cups are great on tables. You can find inexpensive plastic julep cups at your local craft store near the vases.

Want to give everyone a laugh at your Derby party? Set up a jockey life-sized cutout with your face at the entrance or near the buffet! It's very fun and makes a great photo opportunity too!

A few more fun items around the room will really make the party. Here are some great Kentucky Derby decorations for the rest of the room -
  • Derby Scene Setter - If you put up one decoration make it this one. This scene will cover any blank wall and it a great place to take photos of your guests in all of their derby finery!
  • Foil Horseshoe Cutout - These great foil decorations are perfect for adding something fun to the walls, such as a backdrop for the bar or the buffet (combine with a personalized banner for a great look).
  • Jockey Helmet Cutouts - As versatile as the horseshoe cutouts, use anywhere you need a little more color
  • Balloons, mixed with blue, and red balloons - Balloons are the best way to fill a room with color! Make bouquets from odd numbers of balloons (it looks better) and don't forget balloon weights. Unless you have a few horseshoes lying around, those would make super cute weights!
  • Crepe Paper - This decoration staple is inexpensive and high impact. Use it to highlight doorways, ceilings, tables...you get the idea!
  • One fun final decoration, if you have 2 bathrooms make one a guy's and the other girl's, and put a sign on each, "Fillies" and "Colts."
Now that the party room looks like a winner, let's move on to the tables.

Kentucky Derby Table Decorations and Menu
What you need for this party are red and green party supplies! The plates, cups and napkins match the Kentucky Derby logo. They provide the perfect decoration for your buffet and tables!

By the buffet, put a cute sign saying, "Step into the Winner's Circle and Enjoy!" inviting people to eat when and if they want. There are just some dishes that are perfect for a Kentucky Derby buffet. If you are looking for a classic Derby menu you cannot go wrong with this lineup -
  • Beef tenderloin and Henry Bain Sauce
  • Hot Brown sandwich
  • Benedictine (cucumber canapé spread)
  • Derby Pie
But you can also supplement with other Southern favorites to round out your Derby buffet -
  • Fried Chicken
  • Barbequed Meats
  • Cheese Garlic Grits
  • Pecan Pie
Near the bar put a sign that says "And we're off!" indicating the party starts right here. Or get another personalized Kentucky Derby banner that says "Derby Watering Hole" and hang it above the bar! You can also name your bar something fun like "Millionaires' Row". Serve your drinks in glowing barware and get personalized Kentucky Derby water bottle labels and Kentucky Derby beer bottle labels for your bottled beverages! Decorate your bar and tables with balloons bouquets if you have a large room and need to add height to fill the room.
 
Don't forget to serve the derby classic... Mint Juleps!
 
Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Recipe
  • A shot of bourbon
  • 2 tsp simple syrup
  • fresh mint
  • shaved ice
Combine bourbon, simple syrup and several mint sprigs in a mint julep cup and stir. Add shaved ice and garnish with more mint. Serve immediately.
 
Kentucky Derby Activities
As an activity, collect "derby" trivia and see who wins. What was the fastest start and when? How many horses were sent off with odds of 100-1? Who was the highest priced winner? For more ideas, go to Kentucky Derby Museum.

Of course, you should take bets and give betting tickets--or make it easy on yourself and make a large poster with the list of horses (let's see there's Dancer and Prancer and...), bets placed and by whom so that there's no argument when the winner is announced! Don't forget some sort of betting program so people know the odds on favorite, etc., or you'll be forever answering questions.

And don't forget to judge the fancy hat contest! Make sure to give prizes to all the winners, maybe a blue ribbon? You can't get a higher award that that!
 
Just for fun you can set up a Kentucky Derby jockey photo op to have your guests take the perfect picture in! What a fun memory of your derby party!

Kentucky Derby Party Favors
Don't let your guests leave empty handed! Give them a sweet treat to take home. Here are a few great ideas -
Everyone will have such a great time at your unique and fun Derby party, they will be counting the days until your next celebration. Enjoy the race, from the Party Girl and the Party-ettes!