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How to Throw the Perfect Kentucky Derby Party

You can bet on a good time at this Kentucky Derby party. Pastel embellishments, homemade mint juleps and a themed game make for thoroughbred fun.

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Set the Scene

Pastels, seersucker fabric and floral patterns are race-day essentials. Incorporate them into your decor via serving ware, napkins, tablecloths and more. And for the finishing touch, unfurl a faux grass table runner down the center of your spread as a nod to the lush lawns of Churchill Downs.

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Hang a Ribbon BannerCourtesy Design Improvised

Say Hello

Welcome guests with a gorgeous garland like this one from Design Improvised. Of course, it’s fitting for your Southern soiree, but the best part is that it’s so easy to make yourself. All you need is festive party fans, ribbon and a hole punch. And you’re off!

(Discover these unique features exclusively found in southern homes!)

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Dress to Impress

Channel your inner Southerner and don a chic chapeau. On race day, women commonly wear coordinating pastel hats or fascinators, dresses, bags, shoes and even parasols. Men make their mark with vibrant suits or blazers, ties, horsebit loafers and hats of their own. To really feel like you’re at Churchill Downs, ask partygoers to dress accordingly.

(These pretty pink desserts that will perfectly match the dress code.)

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Incorporate Roses

Fun fact: Roses are the official flower of the Kentucky Derby because the winning jockey and horse are famously adorned in them. (This is also how the Derby earned its other moniker: Run for the Roses.) Pick your favorite rose color, then fill a vase with them or, if you’re feeling ambitious, make a wreath. Prefer edible blossoms? Try our recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Meringue Roses!

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Set Out Stable-Inspired Decorations

You can’t have a Derby party without horses…or at least horse figurines. Spray-paint a set of miniatures your favorite color for extra fun. Let them graze on the table among the dishes, atop cake stands and along the table runner.

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a Mint JulepTMB Studio

Build a Mint Julep Bar

One of the indisputable Kentucky Derby traditions is having a mint julep, a cocktail made with bourbon, mint and simple syrup, served on the rocks. During the weekend in May, more than 120,000 mint juleps are sold at Churchill Downs. Don’t miss out! Set out a serving tray with the quintessential ingredients as well as crushed ice, glasses and stirrers.

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Bring On the Benedictine Spread

Mint juleps aren’t the only thing on the menu! Classic dishes native to Kentucky, like Benedictine spread, have become staples of race day. Made with cream cheese, dill, onion, cucumber and, occasionally, green food dye, this fresh dip is delish with bread, crackers and veggies.

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Serve Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders

If there’s one thing Kentuckians know how to do, it’s make comfort food. Inspired by the iconic open-faced Kentucky Hot Brown, which was first created at Louisville’s Brown Hotel, these sliders are loaded with turkey, bacon, pimientos and cheese. Pair ’em with one (or more!) of the best Kentucky Derby appetizers.

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Treat ’em to Pecan TartsTMB Studio

Treat ’em to Pecan Tarts

For a little sweetness on Derby Day, serve vanilla-kissed pecan tarts for dessert. (For bonus points, top each nutty morsel with a spoonful of homemade bourbon whipped cream.) If you prefer a full-size cake, bake up this bourbon Bundt fit for the Kentucky Derby.

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Pick a Winner

Every party needs an activity. Have attendees pick from a bowler hat or fedora a numbered piece of paper randomly assigned to a racehorse. Whoever selects the winning horse’s number wins a prize at the party’s end. Any of these irresistible edible party favors will do, or let the champ take home the hat used for the drawing.

Annamarie Higley
Annamarie is Taste of Home’s Shopping Editor. In this role, she’s able to channel her affinity for online shopping and novel, cost-effective products into helpful insights, recommendations and roundups for our readers. A midwestern transplant originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she enjoys hiking, crafting and—you guessed it!—all things cooking and baking.