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How To Throw The Best Kentucky Derby Themed Party

How To Throw The Best Kentucky Derby Themed Party

If you’re looking to throw a Kentucky Derby themed party then look no further because we’ve got you covered. With just some essential derby elements, you and your crew will be drinking mint juleps and signing “Old Kentucky Home” all night long. Can’t go to the Kentucky derby? No Problem! We’ll show you how to throw the perfect Kentucky Derby themed party and you won’t even realize you’re not at the real thing!

First things first, let’s get a little history on the Kentucky Derby and why it’s so famous and why you should be throwing a Kentucky Derby themed party.

The first official Kentucky Derby was held in 1875 and has been going strong ever since. Astonishingly the first Kentucky Derby was already sort of a big deal drawing some 10,000 people and featured 15 young thoroughbreds to race 1.5 miles. Later, the race was reduced to 1.25 miles and that is the length it is today. The race transformed from a local event to a staple in American society when human bookmakers were replaced with machines so more people could bet more easily. Along with the machines, celebrities were invited to the even and the race was broadcasted on radio which made the race famous. The record for the race is 1:59.40 and was set back in 1973. 

The Derby is now a tradition and romanticizes the old south-for good or for bad and your party will be no different. These are some essentials you’ll need at your party to make it Kentucky Derby certified.


When you think of the Kentucky Derby, the first thing you think of is “hats”- crazy, big, church-like sun hats often decorated with flowers. You can’t go to the Kentucky Derby without wearing a hat and you can’t go to a Kentucky Derby themed party without a hat either. The hat tradition comes from the Southern culture and is supposed to suggest that you’re a “Southern belle” and also the fashion at high-class European races.

How To Throw The Best Kentucky Derby Themed Party


Along with that big hat, you’re going to need a colorful-classy outfit to go with it. Often a suit and tie for the gentlemen and women usually wear spring colored sundresses. People often look like they are dressed for a campy Easter party- the brighter the better.

Have The Race On TV

The annual Kentucky Derby is broadcasted on NBC Sports and draws around 20 million viewers. All you need is a big T.V. and you’ll feel like you’re actually at the race watching will all of your friends in your spiffed up outfits.

Place Bets

The Kentucky Derby revolves around gambling and placing bets on the horses. Have everyone pick a horse and throw in however much money you want from $1 to $20 and the winner or winners get the pool. If you don’t want to play for money then the winner can get flowers as they do in the races.

How To Throw The Best Kentucky Derby Themed Party


Mint Juleps 

Mint Juleps are the official unofficial drink of the Kentucky Derby. Known for being a southern drink as the race is itself, everybody must have a Mint Julep in their hand while watching the race. Mint Juleps are an alcoholic drink made with bourbon, sugar, mint, and crushed ice. The Chunky Chef has a great recipe for Mint Juleps that are sure to give your whole party a buzz.

“Old Kentucky Home”

“Old Kentucky Home” has become the undercover official song of the Kentucky Derby as much as “Take Me Out To The Ball Park” is for baseball games. This 19th century song is sung by the crowd as the horses stride onto the track before the race starts. Composed by Stephen Foster, “Old Kentucky Home” was first played at the Derby in 1921.


The South is known for their food and style of cooking and every party need some small bites, especially if you’re serving drinks. Some Southern style appetizers will take your Kentucky Derby themed party from amateur to pro with just a couple recipes. Some ideas are Million Dollar Dip, Creamy Collard Greens Spread or Southern Chicken and Waffle Bites– get creative, people are going to love it!

How To Throw The Best Kentucky Derby Themed Party“Best Dressed” Contest

As the Kentucky Derby is known for people’s lavish outfits, tell your friends to wear their best and make a game out of it! Tell your ladies to wear a colorful sundress and hat and tell the lads to wear a fedora and a suit and have people vote on the best dressed lady and gentleman. Tally the votes and give the winner a bouquet or roses as the winner of the Kentucky derby traditionally gets when they win the race.

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How To Throw The Best Kentucky Derby Themed Party

Pin The Tail On The Horse

Every party needs some party games and “Pin The Tail On The (insert your subject)” is a popular one and especially fun to do while drinking. Instead of the boring “Pin The Tail On The Donkey,” make your game Kentucky Derby themed with a horse instead of a donkey- they’re cousins right? All you need is a blind fold, a big picture of a horse, a tac, a tail and you’re set to go- even if it seems cheesy people will love it and isn’t this whole party a little cheesy anyways?

Southern Comfort Food

People are going to be hungry after all those Mint Juleps and game playing, treat them to a Southern style meal to put the cherry on top of a great party. You can go with the typical fried chicken, collard greens and mashed potatoes or you can mix it up with some other meal options including Southern Shrimp and Sausage Roast or Country Shrimp and Grits. Don’t be afraid to try something new, southern food is famous for a reason!

How To Throw The Best Kentucky Derby Themed Party



As written before, roses are associated with the Kentucky Derby because the jockey of the winning horse gets awarded a bouquet of roses at the end of the race. You can incorporate this into your party by not only giving the winner of the games at your party a bouquet of roses, but you can decorate them. Place a couple vases of roses around the party and they will look and smell nice and be a great conversation piece. 

How To Throw The Best Kentucky Derby Themed Party

What are you going to incorporate into you Kentucky Derby themed party? Tell us in the comments below:

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