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Plan Your Own Derby Watch Party
There's nothing like a good theme party to celebrate spring. With the Derby right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to throw an exciting and stylish Derby viewing party. Follow these tips for décor, food, drinks, games and attire, and you can pull together a last minute party that will earn you a blue ribbon.
The first key to any good theme party is the décor. The longstanding traditions of the Derby calls for a classy and stylish space. Use the silk jockey jerseys as your inspiration, and infuse your space with similar colors and patterns by featuring vibrant tablecloths and napkins. Or go for a prim and preppy summer look with stylish seersucker napkins.
Draw inspiration from the iconic garland of roses that's presented in the winner’s circle by featuring a beautiful rose centerpiece on your table. Create smaller arrangements for side tables or buffets by placing a few red roses in traditional silver julep cups.
Scatter some racing forms, programs and pencils on the tables so that guests can get in on the action. Most importantly, when setting up your space, don’t forget that everyone is going to want a good view of the TV during the big race!
The Derby is well-known for its traditional southern recipes. These Kentucky favorites are loaded with flavor, and the enticing sights and smells may make your guests temporarily forget that they aren’t actually at the big race.
Grab your biggest baking dish and make a giant Kentucky Hot Brown by stacking toast, turkey, tomatoes, bacon and cheesy Mornay sauce, then baking it all until it is bubbly and golden. Bake up some twisted cheese straws and watch them quickly disappear from the table. For a heartier offering, make a batch of crowd-pleasing buttermilk biscuits adorned with a dab of butter and a dollop of jalapeno pepper jelly. The biscuits pair perfectly with burgoo, Kentucky’s most famous stew. Consisting of at least three different meats and plenty of vegetables, a big batch of burgoo can easily serve a crowd. Even better, the stew tastes better on the second day, so you can make this one ahead of time!
For dessert, try your hand at a sticky toffee pudding, a chocolate and bourbon pecan pie, or sweet bourbon balls featuring pecan halves and chocolate.\
No Derby party would be complete without an ice-cold mint julep served in a traditional silver julep cup. For a perfectly simple drink, stir together 1 teaspoon sugar with 1 teaspoon water in your cup until the sugar dissolves. Then add 8 fresh mint leaves and muddle with the back of a wooden spoon. Fill the cup with crushed ice, then add 1/3 cup of bourbon. Stir well, so that the outside of the cup begins frosting. Garnish with mint sprigs and enjoy the sweet and refreshing taste.
For another delicious Derby drink, mix up a pitcher of Arnold Palmer: half lemonade and half iced tea. Then spike it with a half cup of bourbon and squeeze in the juice of one orange. Serve with orange slices for garnish, and you have a quick and easy crowd-pleaser that your guests can help themselves to throughout the party.
There’s no better way to liven up your Derby party than with a game of horseshoes. Head outside before the big race and play a few games, offering the winners a party favor. For a more intellectual angle, host a trivia game where all the questions revolve around the Derby. Split guests into two teams and see who really knows the most about Derby traditions.
For a fun craft that will let your guests showcase their creative sides, hold a fascinator-making contest. Fascinators are decorative headpieces that are popular among British women and Derby attendees alike. Provide an assortment of headbands, hairclips, feathers, beads, faux flowers, felt, pipe cleaners and plenty of glue. Your guests will have a blast creating their own fascinators to wear during the big race. Offer prizes for the craziest, the most stylish, and the most gravity-defying designs.
You can’t have a true Derby party without gorgeous hats. The tradition of wearing hats to the Derby began back in the late 1800s when women wanted to dress their finest at the races. The custom lives on today, and the fashionable wide-brimmed straw hats and feathered fascinators can be seen everywhere at the track. In your invitation, be sure to ask your female guests to wear their biggest and best hat, and consider providing a ballot box for guests to vote on their favorites. Reward the winner with a Derby trophy or a bottle of bourbon.