Growing up in Louisville, KY, THE DERBY was a city-wide holiday. Schools were closed on the Friday before Derby- "Oaks Day", and on Derby day you either went to the Derby, went to a Derby party, or threw a Derby party. The annual gathering events for our extended family looked like this :
When we moved to Franklin, TN almost 20 years ago we had what can only be described as a Derby void. We tried to fill that void by traveling home to Louisville and attending Derby festivities there, but that didn't quite fill the void like it used to. And we weren't really up for all that was involved in a day long trip to an overcrowded overpriced racetrack with unpredictable weather. We needed a new tradition. 3 years ago we decided to bring the Derby excitement to our friends in Franklin, TN.
When I started planning our first Derby party 3 years ago, I of course turned to Pinterest. Make sure you check out my KY Derby Party Board where you can find all my recipes and ideas.
KY Derby Party Must Have's
There are a few things you must have for a traditional Derby Party.
KY Derby Decor
The most fun for me is decorating for the party. I have a "derby storage box" and if I find any horse related items throughout the year, I just store them away in the box and pull the box out each year to decorate for our party. Here is how we decorated this year.
I have a neighbor who is called "The Donkey Lady". She raises donkeys and has won lots of ribbons and trophies over the years. She graciously lets me come to her house and borrow anything I need from her stash. I always borrow three trophies for WIN-PLACE-SHOW, several horse show ribbons, and two big engraved trophy cups.
I also found a site with some fun Derby printables that look great framed and set out around the house.
We spray painted some plastic horses gold to layer into our decorations.
Roses, roses, everywhere.
I also created this D-E-R-B-Y banner to great our guests when they came in the front door.
Here is a video of our Derby Decor I posted on Facebook Live.
Mint Juleps Drink Station
I love the idea of my guests being able to drink out of authentic KY Derby Mint Julep glasses. I collect them all year long and this year even picked up a set of silver julep glasses. It adds a bit of sophistication to any party. I set up a drink station with pre-mixed Mint Juleps, tiny ice from Sonic, striped paper straws, drink stirrers, cocktail napkins and fresh mint. For a non alcoholic treat I also serve Cucumber Mint Lemonade that is always a hit!
Derby Party Attire
I love seeing everyone get into the tradition of the day with the ladies wearing big hats and the men wearing bow ties and seersucker. It makes for some great photo ops.
KY Derby Jackpot
So the jackpot is the thing I remember growing up that REALLY made the party fun. Everybody put in a couple of dollars and then they had a horse to cheer for during the actual Run for the Roses and some lucky winner/winners would go home with a pocket full of cash. The way it works is everyone chooses a horse and puts in a couple of dollars.
If you are wondering if your guests are having a good time at your party, wait until you hand them a wad of cash. They will clear their schedules to be available for the next Derby party for sure. I posted this video to Facebook Live explaining how we set up our KY Derby Party Jackpot.
What makes a great Derby Party even better? Help with the clean up! These two Derby cuties helped me out all day and with the clean up. I couldn't have done it without them.
Do you have any KY Derby traditions I haven't thought of? Please leave a comment or send me an email. Don't forget to "pin" this post so you can remember these tips for your next Derby party.