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Kentucky Derby Theme Party

The Kentucky Derby is far more than just a race of thoroughbreds. It has become one of the most cherished springtime events, rich in ceremony and as much a part of southern American tradition as warm apple pie.

Kentucky Derby Theme

History of Kentucky Derby

Kentucky horse racing can be traced back to 1783 when races were being held in the middle of Kentucky streets and on a number of private tracks located on farms throughout the area.

Kentucky Derby Theme

Several concerned citizens complained about safety issues, and eventually the first race track was built in Lexington in 1789.

Almost one hundred years later in 1872, a young entrepreneur named Col. M. Lewis Clark traveled in England and France visiting a number of prominent racing leaders.

Upon his return, he devised a plan to create a Louisville Jockey Club to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry.

The track formally opened May 17, 1875 when over 10,000 excited fans witnessed four spectacular races. The winner of the first race was Bonaventure, however the winner of the day's featured race, the Kentucky Derby, was a three-year-old chestnut colt named Aristides.

Eventually the track became known as "Churchill Downs-Home of the Kentucky Derby" because Clark leased the land from his uncles, John and Henry Churchill.

Over the years, several improvements have been made to the property, including the addition of the now famous spires on the top of the main building, making Churchill Downs the most well known horse racing venue in the United States.

Kentucky Derby Party Ideas

Just as people gather around the television set to watch a great football or soccer game, so do people gather around to watch The Kentucky Derby.

It is the perfect event to start an annual tradition with friends and family; invite them all over and enjoy the day together. First, what should you wear to a derby party? Well, two things immediately come to mind. Silks and Hats.


With the help of programs and modern technology, it is not difficult to keep sight of your horse as he is blazing around the track. But that wasn't always the case.

Silks and Hats

During the time of King Charles II, "silks" were used to identify a horse and jockey. These were colorful pieces of material, like a scarf, that were worn by the jockeys to help the dukes and barons distinguish their horse from the others.

The tradition of the silks remains today as jockeys wear the colors of the horse owners, but because there are so many owners, they have become even more colorful.

Wouldn't it be fun to have your guests come to the party wearing the colors of the horse and jockey that they support? See the "Invitations" section below for a easy way to do this.


The Hat Parade is almost as entertaining as the race itself. Long ago, hats were all the rage. Women were rarely seen without one. Nowadays, there aren't many occasions when women wear fashionable hats, but once a year on Derby Day, hats of all shapes and sizes make an appearance.

Kentucky Derby Hat Parade

There are big ones, small ones, some more colorful than others. Hats with plumes and feathers. Hats with flowers and butterflies. Hats in the clubhouse and in the infield.

Your Kentucky Derby party is the perfect time to encourage your guests to wear hats. Maybe you have a contest for the zanniest one. Make sure they know that we are not talking about simple baseball hats. It's time for them to exercise their creativity!

See the "Group Games" section below for Kentucky Derby Hat Contest ideas.

Kentucky Derby Invitations

If you want your guests to be able to select a winning horse and to wear that horse's colors, then you need to provide certain information at the time of invitation. Here is a link where you can find a list of the Derby contenders.

I would just provide this link or website name on the invitations and let your guests do a little research so they can pick a horse and find out the jockey's colors. They can go all out and find matching clothing or simply tie on a colorful scarf.

If you want help with invitations, visit this page to learn how to design your own Derby Invitations In Powerpoint.

Group Games

Kentucky Derby Hats

Probably the most obvious game to play at a Kentucky Derby theme get-together is to hold a hat contest. Tell your guests on the invitation the details about the contest so they come prepared.

You can even have a pre-bash craft session where people get together to make their hats. Have them bring a basic hat and a glue gun and you provide a bunch of craft items like feathers, ribbon, silk flowers and buttons.

Prizes can be awarded in different categories including:

  • Most Outrageous Hat
  • Ugliest Hat
  • Most Colorful Hat
  • Biggest Hat
  • Smallest Hat
  • Most Boring
  • Darkest
  • Lightest

To see some more examples of Kentucky Derby hats, visit In addition to all of the in-depth Derby information found at this site, Cindy has the best selection of Derby hat photos on the net.

More Group Games

Printable Games Party Pack

Printable games are fun to play at parties. We recently became partners with Python Printable Games and my friend Ashley has some great ones to choose from.

You can buy his printable party games individually or you can buy a multi-pack like this one shown here. You get the convenience of buying them online plus you can download them immediately and use them over and over again.

This pack includes more than 30 printables that will fit any occasion. A great mix of home group games, including ice-breaker games, history, food and drink, celebrity games, TV, books and movies, NFL and baseball.

We like printables for theme parties because they are so easy and very inexpensive. This pack, for example, is only $14.95 for 30 theme party games. Just download the package to your computer and you will be ready to print and play.

Click here to learn more about Ashley's Printable Party Games Pack.

Kentucky Derby Party Food

Below you will find several traditional recipes, including
How To Make A Mint Julep, Derby Pie and Benedictine (aka cucumber finger sandwiches).

I also included several brunch recipes for you to choose from in case you are going to take my suggestion and have a day time theme bash.

Theme Party Cocktails

How To Make A Mint Julep

How To Make A Mint Julep

Cranberry Madras

Pomegranate Cosmo

Limoncello Mint Lemonade

Pineapple Bleu

Easy Punch Recipes

Dips and Appetizers

How To Make Spiced Pecans

Best Spiced Pecans

Vidalia Onion Dip

Peppered Meatballs

Pimento Cheese

Pineapple Pecan Spread

Soups, Salads and Sides

Scalloped Pineapple

Pineapple Casserole

Lime Cashew Jello

Southern Apple Slaw

Strawberry Salad w/Caramelized Almonds

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Simple Derby Food

How To Make Benedictine

Benedictine, Cucumber Sandwiches

Canape Recipes

Fruit Scones Recipes

Cranberry Chicken Salad

Tomato Basil Tart

Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole

Brunch Recipes

Easy Desserts

How To Make Kentucky Derby Pie

Best Derby Pie

Raspberry White Chocolate Dream Bars

Bourbon Balls

Pear Custard Dessert Bars

Lemon Cream Fondue

More Easy Desserts

Thoughts? Questions? Opinions?

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

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