The Kentucky Derby is an exciting time for people around the world. Even growing up in Maine people would gather on race day to watch the horses run and possibly even throw a themed Kentucky Derby party.
Top image courtesy of kentuckytourism.com
When I moved to Kentucky the excitement surrounding the Derby only grew, with lots of events leading up to race day and Kentucky Derby parties to attend. If you’re planning your own Kentucky Derby party I have some great tips for you on how to make it winner circle-worthy. Thank you to Thorntons for partnering with me so I can share these party tips with you.
My mother-in-law is my Kentucky Derby party idol. She and my father-in-law hosted one every year for many years and they were always the talk of their friends and family. Here are some Kentucky Derby party tips I picked up from attending her parties, plus a few of my own.
Kentucky Derby Party Tips
Entertainment – The actual Derby race is later in the day, and while there are plenty of races to watch leading up to it, there’s also a lot of downtime between. Have a table of fun horse- and Kentucky-themed gifts and draw door prizes every 30 or 60 minutes. Let kids run their own races using stick horses. And set up a game or three of horseshoes, something casual so people can play and talk at the same time.
Derby Hats – It’s not the Derby without a hat. Invite your guests to wear their favorite hat to your Kentucky Derby party then vote for the winner in categories like fanciest, most colorful, most fun, etc. For kids, set up a table with inexpensive dollar store hats plus decorative supplies like feathers, glitter, stickers and more.
Party Decor – The right decor can definitely set the tone for the party but it doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Buy inexpensive green table clothes, then run some brown craft paper down the middle for the “track”. Leave crayons out, too, and kids can draw their own horses. Look up the colors of the horses running and make banners to match from paper or felt. And don’t forget the TVs! You’ll need an area set up for race-watching.
Beverages – The Mint Julep is the classic “Derby drink” though you don’t have to stick to just a julep. Any drink will look right at home served in an iconic silver cup (you can even find disposable ones). Stop at your local Thorntons to pick up plenty of nugget ice because it can get hot on Derby day and the last thing you want to run out of is ice. Consider crafting some special drinks just for the kiddos, too, like green sorbet punch, slushies, or mint milkshakes.
Good Eats – One of the most important parts of any party is the food. At a Kentucky Derby party finger foods are your friend. People will be wandering back and forth between the TV, games, and tables, so food that can move with them is important. Of course you may also want to serve a classic Kentucky Derby pie too.
If new and different is more your style, pre-order Bourbon Ball Donuts (three doz. minimum) from Thorntons. Created by local Louisville food artisan Chef Jamie Matt, they’re filled with smooth bourbon cream, covered in chocolate, and then topped with a pecan to capture some of Kentucky’s favorite flavors.
These donuts are only available through May. You also should try two of their other limited-time offerings: the Bourbon Vanilla Latte, and the Johnsonville BBQ Bourbon Sausage developed in partnership with Johnsonville chef Cole Hansen. At Thorntons a real cook prepares real hot food in a real kitchen – all in about three minutes. You never have to sacrifice taste or quality for speed.
Thorntons Bourbon Kitchen will also be traveling in a food truck around Louisville April 28th and 29th. They’ll also be at the Kentucky Derby Balloon Glow on that Friday night, and the Pig & Swig that Saturday.
Want to try the treats for yourself? Enter below to win a $25 Thorntons gift card to use on donuts, lattes, chef-prepared food, gas, or whatever you need.