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Down and Derby

Mint juleps. Roses. Bold hats. Yup, the countdown to the Kentucky Derby has begun! That means it’s time to plan a viewing party worthy of the fastest two minutes in sports. And in order to pull that off, you need creative ways to bring the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feel of this iconic race to life for your guests. Engaging all five of their senses is the secret to instantly transporting them to Churchill Downs, even if you’re miles away from the action. Luckily, I’ve got ideas that will help you create an event that does just that!

Ticket to Fun

Invitations are always first on my to-do list once I’ve decided on a date, time, and location for my party. That’s because invitations are much more than pieces of paper with the who, what, when, and where of your party. They also set your guests’ expectations for your event, and if done well, create buzz and excitement that will last right up to the actual event. So you can see why it’s important to strike the right note with your invitation.

The invitations for my Kentucky Derby party were inspired by a ticket from the 1950s that I found online. The party details were printed on the front where the ticket fees and taxes had been printed on the original ticket. I aged the paper and distressed the font to give the ticket a vintage look. I then enclosed the ticket in a small box with a grass platform, a nod to the Churchill Downs grounds.

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Derby Party Decor

Decorating a Kentucky Derby party is all about the equestrian details. The more, the merrier!

it’s not difficult to find equestrian home accessories, but you can also make your own. I converted a plain glass bottle by gluing a plastic toy horse to the cap and covering it with a couple of coats of gold paint. I used this bottle to hold the mint-infused simple syrup for the mint juleps. Not including the drying time for the paint, the entire project took ten minutes. Not bad, right?

The napkin rings were another easy DIY project. To make things easier for my guests, I rolled silverware in napkins that were held together with my DIY equestrian napkin rings. That way, I could incorporate another equestrian element while allowing my guests to grab their napkin and utensils on one fell swoop. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

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Run for the Roses Bar

My decision to host a Kentucky Derby party may or may not have been heavily influenced by my love for mint juleps. They’re one of my go-to cocktails during the spring and summer, and they just so happen to be the official cocktail of the Derby. So it’s probably not a shock that I decided to incorporate a mint julep bar into the party. My first task was to create the signage, which also served as the backdrop. Using the same font that I had hused for the invitation, I created a pennant so that my guests would see the bar the moment that they entered the room. After all, you want to get the party off on the right foot!

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Derby Party Bites

Equestrian decor and cocktails are definitely necessities for a Kentucky Derby party, but the food is just as important. After all, my guests needed some hearty food to help absorb all of that bourbon! I created small bites of Southern food like bourbon pulled pork biscuit sandwiches, bourbon chicken, and macaroni and cheese. For dessert, I served chocolate covered Oreos topped with gold-dusted chocolate roses and mini lemon chess pies. Although the chocolate covered Oreos are not technically a Southern favorite, they’re always a crowd pleaser and the rose toppers tied them to the Derby theme. Sometimes a little poetic license is necessary in the name of good eats.

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And They’re Off!

By the time the horses were out of the gates, my guests and I were all holding mint juleps and enjoying Southern treats. So, in other words, we were all happy campers!