California Chrome clacks his hooves in the Kentucky dirt on the Churchill Downs track where the Twin Spires rest along the Louisville landscape.
All bets are placed and lavishly dressed onlookers perch on the edge of their seats. Time to dust off those giant hat boxes - it’s the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby! If you’re like us and not jet-setting to the rolling hills of Kentucky on May 3rd to experience “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” here are a few easy ways to recreate an authentic Kentucky Derby party of your own.
Party Themes. Are you hosting a party for the laid-back infielders, the sport jockeys, or the prim and proper Southerners? If you are leaning towards the rowdy infielders, dress in casual attire and break out the grill and slip’n slide. Feeling a little more classically thematic? Sprinkle your venue in silk and request party goers to dress-up in “silks” (jockey jerseys), riding pants and helmets or in wide brimmed hats and seersucker suits for a preppy Southern soiree.
Provisions & Libations. It’s no Kentucky Derby party without The Early Times Mint Julep. The Mint Julep has been the iconic beverage of Churchill Downs for almost a century and Early Times Kentucky whiskey has been part of this tradition for 18 years. Lucky for you, the ready to serve concoction is available at local retailers but for a homemade remedy, follow this recipe:
Ingredients 2 cups sugar 2 cups water Sprigs of fresh mint Crushed ice Early Times Kentucky Whiskey Silver Julep Cups
Directions Make 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.
Slosh the mixture into a silver Mint Julep cup like this one from Crate and Barrel and pair them with great southern appetizers and entrees.
Attire. Fashion is everything at the Kentucky Derby and has been since the late-19th century. A Kentucky Derby sports party is the occasion to flaunt your very best spring fashion. There aren’t many rules when it comes to what to wear but there are well-known standards. Every year a rainbow of bright and bold or pastel spring colors flood the stands. Women don frilled dresses or streamlined separates and men suit up in colorful pants and a complimentary dress shirt with a jacket and bow tie. But hats are the statement makers. The wide-brimmed “Southern Belle” hats are believed to bring good luck and are decorated with flowers, ribbons and feathers. In contrast, men’s hats are more modest in 1920s silhouettes and solid colors.
Red Roses. The “Run for the Roses” is another famous name for the Kentucky Derby. In 1904 roses were declared the race’s official flower and are now an integral symbol for all derby festivities. Follow the tradition from well-to-do Louisville Derby parties and present each woman at your party with a single rose. Also string together stem less roses and drape throughout the venue. Or try your hand at replicating the 400-rose garland that’s cloaked over the winning horse.
Betting and Games. To get the party buzzing don’t let all the action happen only on your TV screen. Suggest guests to create their personal account at Twin Spires and place actual money winning bets. Another idea is to create a Derby Pool where each attendee picks a numbered slip of paper and the winning numbers receive prizes or a jog to the front of the drink line. If the gang isn’t quite the betting type, set up an outside game of horse shoes or hold a Best Dressed hat contest with multiple categories including a category for the men!
Programs. Order the official race day programs, stat sheets or 2014 Kentucky Derby magazines for guests to flip through and follow or take home as a souvenir.
“My Old Kentucky Home.” Since 1936 it’s been a running tradition for the Louisville Marching Band to play the historical “My Old Kentucky Home” as the horses meander from the paddock to the starting gates. Print copies of the lyrics for your guests to sing along!
TV Schedule. Tune in to NBC for live coverage of the Kentucky Derby! The 140th Kentucky Derby Saturday May 3 4:00 - 7:00 PM ET* NBC Kentucky Oaks Friday May 2 5:00-6:00 PM ET* NBCSN Derby Prep Saturday May 3 11:00-4:00 PM ET* NBCSN Derby Post Saturday May 3 7:00-7:30 PM ET* NBCSN