Throw a Kentucky Derby Party

Kentucky derby party decorations

The most famous event in the Triple Crown, held the first Saturday in May at the famed Churchill Downs racetrack, is the Kentucky Derby. This day offers horse racing fans everywhere a chance to throw a party for friends and family while watching the big race.

Derby Invitations and Decorations

Both the invitations and decorations help create the right mood for a Kentucky Derby party.


While the date is always the same, it is still important to let guests know what time and where they should arrive for a Kentucky Derby party. Send out party invitations that list the exact date, time and place of the event.

Though it may be a faux pas to dictate attire for formal parties or wedding receptions, a Derby party is an exception to the rule. Often the race fans are dressed in their finest spring suits and dresses, with the women donning hats of all shapes and sizes. You will want to mention the type of attire requested for your party. Part of the fun of Kentucky Derby is seeing the women in their hats. Phrasing can be worded as part of the invitation, in a cute rhyme, or as a small notation in the corner letting guests know that garden party attire for men and women's garden party dresses and hats are encouraged.


The Derby is known as the "Run for the Roses," because the winning horse receives a large garland of red roses. The winning jockey also receives a large bouquet of roses. Decorate an outdoor patio or family room with large vases of red roses and greenery. Create a garland to put around the television where the race will be viewed. Other party decorations could include small faux gold trophies, horseshoes and model horses placed around the room on side tables, coffee tables and mantels.

Kentucky Derby Party Activities


The race itself is not very long and often lasts less than two minutes. You can plan several activities before the start of the race to get guests excited about the event.

Adult Activities

Before each Kentucky Derby race, attendees sing "My Old Kentucky Home" by Stephen Foster. Keep with tradition and pass out lyrics to the song and download the MP3 for a fun sing-along. Two other activities to include at your party are:

  • Faux betting: To make the race more exciting, place faux bets using fake board game money. The winner can receive a cheap trophy or certificate. If guests are unfamiliar with the horses in the race, randomly assign a horse to guests as they arrive at the party.
  • Horseshoes: Set up an outdoor game of horseshoes. Divide guests into teams of two people and use four horseshoes and two stakes. Players take turns tossing horseshoes at stakes in the ground that are placed 40 feet apart. Award a prize to the winning team.

Kids' Activities

Kids at a Kentucky Derby party can pass the time and have fun by participating in activities such as:

  • Decorating cookies shaped like a horseshoe
  • Playing with toy horses
  • Coloring sheets with pictures of horses on them
  • Making their own "silks," or shirts that the jockeys use to identify themselves and their horses

Children may also have fun playing a game of Derby Bingo. Use a graphics program to put horse and racing-related items in each square, such as horseshoes, roses, jockey shirts, sugar cubes and trophies. Print off as many versions as children who will be at the party, plus one. Cut the extra card up and draw the pictures out of a feed sack.

Party Food and Drinks

When planning to throw a Kentucky Derby party, food is often high on the list of items that need to be perfected. Elegant appetizers and hors d'oeuvres are an excellent choice for many party hosts. You can also serve a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic Kentucky Derby themed drinks for your guests to enjoy.

Start a Tradition

Make it an annual affair and hold a Kentucky Derby party each year. This party is sure to be a hit among family and friends, and they will anxiously await the celebration year after year.

Was this page useful?
Throw a Kentucky Derby Party