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9 Fabulous Kentucky Derby Party Ideas

There are so many sporting events to celebrate in a year, but most major ones can be out of the way and expensive. But whether you’re on site at the live event or far, far away, you can still take part in festivities happening around the country thanks to television. If you are having a watch party locally and need a venue spacious enough for all your guests, check out Peerspace venues in your area. Rent a cozy loft, a townhouse, a mansion, or even book an entire local bar to bring your fun Kentucky Derby party ideas to life.

This annual horse race, held the first Saturday of every May in Louisville, KY, has been ongoing since 1875. It was first broadcast on Americans’ televisions since 1949. Only so many fans can dress in their Saturday best and watch the race live from the stands, but everyone else can still join in on the fun by watching the race on TV. Take a look at these festive Kentucky Derby party ideas. You’ll have such a great time, you might forget you’re not at the actual race!

1. Dress up for the occasion

sun hat
Source: Pixabay

Hats are the star of the show at the Kentucky Derby, so be sure to make them a part of your viewing party. If there are little ones at the party, turn the festive hat-wearing tradition into a craft to keep them entertained. Buy plain floppy sun hats and supply the little hat designers with flowers, stickers, glitter glue, feathers, pom-poms, and ribbons. And don’t forget to take lots of photos when they model their creations!

For the rest of the outfits, let vintage Southern style inspire your clothing choices. Think bow ties, brightly colored dresses, floral prints, sweater vests, pastels, colorful blazers, dress shirts, suspenders, dress shoes, and heels. Pinterest and Instagram can offer some fashion inspiration if you search “Kentucky Derby.” Be sure to include information about the dress code on the party invitations so that everyone gets the memo.

2. Opt for a stylish venue 

If your living room isn’t big enough to comfortably host a watch party, rent a space for a few hours or the whole day! You can filter your search for the perfect derby party venue on Peerspace to find places with TVs so you can watch the race on a big screen, or even multiple screens. You’ll have your choice of comfy seating arrangements, too.

Venues on Peerspace have everything from plush theater seating to cozy couches. Forget spending a day in the racetrack stands! Your watch party venue can have the lavish style that is such a trademark of the race.

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3. Munch on brunch items or appetizers

Source: Unsplash / @therachelstory

Appetizers are a great food option for any watch party because they are easy to eat and serve. Since the race is a Southern tradition, try some of these Kentucky Derby party dish ideas inspired by Southern cuisine. Brunch is also a big deal in Kentucky, so you could make a spread of all kinds of breakfast food appetizers like mini quiche; egg bites; muffins; biscuits and sausage or mushroom gravy; grits; Bantam bagels; and hash browns.

4. Serve the official Kentucky Derby drink

The official drink of the derby is the mint julep cocktail. So buy plenty of fresh mint, seltzer water, Kentucky Bourbon whiskey, fun red-and-white paper straws, simple sugar syrup, ice (shaved or cubed), and party cups, then keep everyone’s glass filled with this refreshing drink. For a simple nonalcoholic version, check out this recipe.

5. Decorate with roses

red roses
Source: Pixabay

The red rose is the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. The emblem exists because of the tradition of draping roses onto the winning horse after each race. You can sprinkle roses throughout your party space by placing bouquets on tables, scattering petals (fake petals from craft stores work best), incorporating edible roses or rose designs in your food (like radish roses), or buying tableware and napkins with roses on it.

6. Play lawn games

Catch some fresh air during commercial breaks and get outside to play croquet, cornhole, horseshoes (of course!), badminton, or giant Jenga. If you are using a Peerspace venue with an outdoor space, be sure to ask the host ahead of time if they are okay with certain games being played in the yard.

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7. Engage in friendly betting

A major part of the Kentucky Derby is waging bets on different horses. If there are kids at the party, give them change, chocolate coins, or M&Ms (you can order custom ones for the party!) to bet with for other fun prizes. Here are some betting game ideas from the official Kentucky Derby site.

8. Serve derby-licious desserts

apple pie bars
Source: Pixabay

Pies are the obvious choice when it comes to Kentucky Derby party ideas, but you can mix up the traditional Southern dessert by serving variations like mini pies, pie pops, and pie bars. Bourbon-infused desserts are also a festive treat because Kentucky Bourbon is a staple at the derby. Bourbon blondies, chocolate bourbon balls, a simple Bourbon cake or cupcakes are all delicious, unique, and festive options your watch party guests will love.

9. Send everyone home with favors

Everyone feels like a winner when you hand them a party favor as they’re leaving. For Kentucky Derby party favors, give out Kentucky Derby memorabilia like mint julep glasses or official race shirts; painted horse shoes; fake roses with pens attached for a useful office or school tool; or toy horses for the kids.

Not everyone has the chance to make it over to the historic Churchill Downs racetrack for the biggest annual event in horse racing, but everyone can still join in on the fun with a Kentucky Derby watch party. Celebrate this American tradition with food, wagering games, cocktails, and sweets, all from the comfort of your home or a cozy Peerspace venue. Let these Kentucky Derby party ideas be your guide. 

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