Win, Place & Show Off Your Derby Style

On May 4, more than 100,000 spectators will gather at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, donning their best fascinators, bow ties, seersucker suits and larger-than-life hats for “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” at the 145th Kentucky Derby. If you can’t make the trip north this year, here’s how you can host a fabulous party in your own backyard.


Encourage your guests to dress the part and include the attire in the invitation. You can find great invitations on or


What’s a Derby party without a little wager? For serious bettors, hold a thoroughbred live auction and auction off each horse in the main race. For more casual bettors, try the “Derby Hat Draw,” where guests pull the names of the Derby horses out of a hat, and whoever pulls the name of the winning horse also wins the pool. Be certain to have a large-screen television so your guests don’t miss any of the action and can follow their favorite horse from beginning to end.


Let your guests mingle and snack throughout the day on some easy-to-eat Southern fare. Favorites include Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders, bourbon meatballs, macaroni-and-cheese bites, and bread pudding with bourbon sauce, just to name a few.


Just as a garland of 500-plus roses is draped over the winning Derby horse at the race, you can never have too many red roses at a Derby party. Incorporate red roses for a pop of color in everything from your table centerpieces to your photo backdrop, and pay homage to this long-standing tradition.


The mint julep is a staple at any Kentucky Derby Party, so be sure to have plenty of Woodford Reserve bourbob on hand. But don’t forget about your Champagne lovers. Try these signature drinks to really impress your guests.

• Classic Mint Julep: Bourbon, simple syrup, muddled mint and powdered sugar with a mint garnish.

• Sparkling Julep: Champagne, bourbon, muddled mint leaves and simple syrup.

Blackberry Mint Julep: Bourbon, blackberry puree, simple syrup with blackberry and mint garnish.


Visit the Kentucky Derby store online ( to purchase commemorative glassware in which to serve juleps, and give your guests something to take home, too.



For filling

• Pimento cheese

• 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

• 4 ounces gouda cheese, grated

• 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

• 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

• 1 (4 ounce) jar of diced pimentos

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon pepper

• 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

For sandwiches

• 1 package (12) sweet slider rolls

• 1/4 cup mayonnaise

• 1 package smoked honey turkey

• 1/2 cup pimento cheese

• 12 pieces bacon, cooked

• 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 12 slices.

• 2 tablespoons butter, melted

• 1 teaspoon minced onion

• 1 teaspoon dried parsley

• 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated


• Heat oven to 350 degrees.

• Cut rolls in half and place bottoms in a
13 x 9 pan.

• Layer mayonnaise, turkey, pimento cheese, bacon, tomatoes and top layer of bread.

• Combine butter, minced onion and parsley and brush over the tops of the buns.

• Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes.

• Remove foil and sprinkle with
Parmesan cheese.

• Return to oven for 2-3 minutes until the cheese is melted and the tops are golden.

• Cut into sliders and serve.



Alyssa Rhoads is the owner of, and event planner for, Eventing Tampa Bay.

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