Kentucky Derby Party Ideas

The first weekend in May means it is Kentucky Derby time, and that my friends means Kentucky Derby party ideas.


Racing at Churchill Downs

Horse racing enthusiasts, socialites and celebrities will flock to Churchill Downs this Saturday to view the Run for the Roses.

Known as the most exciting two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby as well as Churchill Downs is grand in history where tradition and excitement run first place.


Kentucky Derby on Facebook

For those of us not making the jaunt, an excellent opportunity to get down and get derby is just a jaunt to the dollar and hobby store away.


Churchill Downs

In other words, you can create your own Kentucky Derby extravaganza with a little imagination and one or more of these Kentucky Derby party ideas.


Begin with the basics- decorating ideas revolving around traditions, red roses, mint juleps and fascinating fashions.

Mint Julep Cup

Dress the Derby fashions have long been as much of the win, place or show festivities as the actual race(s).

For her


Bow Strap Oblique Slit Shift Dress in White
Linear Pearl Drop Earrings
LC Lauren Conrad Camden Clamshell Bag
Iridescent Geometry Mosaic of White Mother of Pearl Bangle Bracelet
Anne Klein Raquel Pump

Part garden party, part afternoon wedding, part pretty is back in style.

Pearl Strap Cold-Shoulder Shift Dress in Pink

Pearl Strap Cold-Shoulder Shift Dress in Pink

Derby today, Mother’s Day brunch next week.


J Reneé Karuny Heels

Red Golden Rose Embroidered Mesh Midi Skirt

Red Golden Rose Embroidered Mesh Midi Skirt

For him


Ray-Ban RB3447N Round Flat Lenses
Stripe Bow Tie & Julep Pocket Square Set
Men’s Cheshire Classic Floral Tie
Men’s Horse-Bit Silver-Tone Stainless Steel Cuff Links

Derby dazzling accessories in gold and silver for Kentucky Derby Day and beyond.


Derby Day Racehorses cuff bracelet

Gold-Tone Silver Horse Head Earrings
Horseshoe Bangle Bracelet with Black Spinel Accents 
Horse And Carriage Stud Earrings
Women’s Silver-Tone Horseshow Barrette
14K Gold-Tone Dipped Clear Crystal and Horse Accent Hinge Bracelet
Horse Bit Dangle Hoop Earrings in Sterling Silver & 14k Gold-Plate
Bead Horse Shoe Charm Bracelet in Silver Plate
Derby Day Race Horses Cuff Bracelet

Now let’s switch gears and show and tell Kentucky Derby party ideas.

And they’re off!

brown horse head wall accent

Hobby Lobby

Working with a theme makes coming up with ideas an easy exercise in Derby decorating.


Grass Table Runner 59in

Horse races are run on dirt courses and turf races.

Dirt is not something I recommend dressing out a lovely party food table in. I mean come on, who wants to decorate a party food table with dirt?



Emulate the look of a turf race with a faux grass table runner.  Spanish and/or reindeer moss pairs well or as stand alone centerpiece additions.


Gallop on down to the local fabric store or shopping site of choice and pick up a yard or two of horse-racing-equestrian-jockey-rose themed fabric and proceed to create tablecloth, runner, and cocktail napkins keepers.

roses-red-pink-cotton-fabric copy

Rose Fabric, By the yard

I can’t sew to save my life, but I am a whiz with a roll of hem tape. Mark your hemlines, heat up the iron, roll out the desired amount of tape, and voilà, table linen magic is made.


Red roses rule the Run for the Roses and make a strong show the next day as an introduction to Mother’s Day week.

See where this getting a lot of bang for your buck decorating logic is going?

Design Toscano The Six Stallions of the Hippodrome Sculptural Vessel

Design Toscano The Six Stallions of the Hippodrome Sculptural Vessel

Marilyn Hageman 'Ritzy Light' Canvas Art

Marilyn Hageman ‘Ritzy Light’ Canvas Art

Good things come in pairs and give good decor accent beauty past party day.

Horse Portrait

Horse Portraits

Polystone Horse Head Sculpture

Polystone Horse Head Sculpture

Centerpiece equation solved with one horse head sculpture/statue sitting in the middle of a red rose floral wreath is Kentucky Derby divine.


Several faux stems of roses will work to fill in bare areas.

Simply dismantle the centerpiece after your Derby party and use the wreath for your Mother’s Day brunch-lunch-dinner centerpiece.


Look at you, you decorating smarty designing and decorating a smashing Derby party.


Over on the Kentucky Derby website is this tutorial for making a DIY Garland of Roses Table Runner.

Horse Racing Roses Kentucky Derby Table Runner

Horse Racing Roses Kentucky Derby Table Runner

Over on Amazon is this horse racing/Kentucky Derby themed table runner.

Churchill Downs Race Coming down the homestretch

Coming Down the Homestretch 

For extra Run for the Roses Derby flair, I clip several roses from my flower bed, clip the stems short, and float blooms in clear bowls.

knockout rose bush

Clip stems at an angle to promote optimum water absorption.

Decorative Clear Glass Bowls

Warm water works best, and I drop a low dose aspirin into the water to prolong the life of the roses.

No real roses?

Artificial Flowers Silk Rose Flowers

No real problem.


Better Homes & Gardens – Photography by Michael Partenio

Faux rose bouquets placed in inexpensive vases, champagne buckets, on trays, or in trophy cups works beautifully as well.



Gather stems together tight and wrap with decorative ribbon.

Basics Hammered Champagne Bucket

Basics Hammered Champagne Bucket

Nickel Etched Trophy

Nickel Etched Trophy with Handles

Super stylish option.

Light Brown Magazine Leather Basket

Light Brown Magazine Leather Basket

Incorporating the traditional aspects of horse racing into my Kentucky Derby party ideas such as riding boots, horseshoes, and a riding helmet or two is not as difficult as one would think.

Riding Boots Stacked Heel

Women’s Riding Boots





Spring is a great time of the year in retail sales to locate a pair of riding boots on sale or clearance. Riding boots will work perfect in my Kentucky Derby party ideas scheme.

Saturday’s centerpiece will become my new fall fashion boots.

Now that’s getting your money’s worth.


Charlotte Moss – Photography by Brittany Ambridge

Several small arrangements of cut roses set on tabletops continues the Run for the Roses theme.


House & Garden

A combination arrangement of red and white roses perfectly fits in with the Run for the Roses motif.


Silver Mercury Glass Vase

Silver Mercury Glass Vases

Party decorating goes with a clever DIY project, and my list of Kentucky Derby party ideas includes one that is relatively simple to execute.

Traditional Polystone Horse Pedestal Table

Traditional Polystone Horse Pedestal Table

Horse Resin Table Lamp

Horse Resin Table Lamp


Classic Bronze Horse Accent Lamp with Tweed Shade

Oliver Gal Artist Co. White Stallion Canvas Wall Art

Oliver Gal ‘Jockey Still Life’ Sports and Teams Wall Art Canvas Print

Fully sanded-ready to paint wood cutouts painted in your choice of color(s) carry out the horse racing theme.


Growing Tree Gallery on Etsy

Scatter about tabletops, prop and position around serving trays, centerpiece embellishments, cake toppers, monogram with party attendees initials as take home favors- you get the idea.


Garden & Gun- Photography by Margaret Houston 

Horse racing reigns supreme in Louisville, and the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep.


½ oz. superfine sugar

1 oz. hot water

8 mint leaves, plus one mint sprig

2 oz. bourbon


Dissolve the sugar in the water in an old-fashioned glass or Mint Julep cup.

Add mint leaves and gently press with a spoon.

Add the bourbon of your choice, fill the glass with crushed ice, and stir.

Place mint sprig in the ice alongside a short straw, and serve.

-Garden & Gun

lavender lemonade mint julep

Lavender-Lemonade Mint Julep

For 1 cocktail


2 ounces bourbon

1.5 ounces Lavender Simple Syrup (recipe follows)

1 ounce fresh lemon juice


Garnish: fresh lavender sprig, fresh mint sprig, lemon slice


In a glass, combine bourbon, Lavender Simple Syrup, and lemon juice. Add ice. Garnish with lavender, mint, and lemon, if desired.

Lavender Simple Syrup


1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lavender buds

1 ounce fresh mint sprigs


In a small pot, combine 1 cup water and sugar, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add lavender and mint. Cool completely. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.

-Southern Lady Magazine


Acopa Alchemy 16 oz. Stainless Steel Mint Julep Cup with Beaded Detailing

Mock Mint Julep (non-alcoholic julep)


2 cups cold water

2 cups granulated sugar

8 fresh mint sprigs (for syrup)

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

32 ounces Ginger Ale soda, chilled

8 cups crushed ice

8 fresh mint sprigs for garnish or more to desired taste


In a large saucepan, bring, water, sugar, lemon juice and mint leaves to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until sugar is completely dissolved.

Allow mixture to cool.

Strain cooled simple mint syrup and discard mint leaves.

Fill your mint julep cups with crushed ice, ½ cup Ginger Ale soda, and ½ cup mint syrup.  Stir to incorporate flavors.

Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

Makes 8 servings.


Arthur Court Designs Horse Pitcher

Keep an eye out for vintage decanters and Derby glassware on resale sites and vintage shops.

Vintage Jim Beam Kentucky Derby Decanter

Vintage Jim Beam Kentucky Derby Decanter


The Novogratz Leather Ice Bucket with Lid

Thoroughbred Horse Themed bar glasses

Thoroughbred Horse Themed Cocktail Glasses


Derby Day Horse Racing Game

Derby Day Horse Racing Game

Horse Drink Stirrers

Horse Drink Stirrers

Here’s a fun serving idea for other beverages requiring ice cubes- rose petal and fresh mint ice cubes.

Gently remove rose petals and fresh mints leaves from stems and lightly wash to remove any debris.


Place rose petals into each water filled compartment.

Enhance the flavor of mint ice cubes by also adding a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the water.

Better yet, use sweet iced tea infused with fresh lemon juice instead of water.

Freeze and enjoy.

fresh mint ice cubes

Pick up several nickel-plated serving trays from Dollar Tree in assorted shapes and sizes to use for servings mint juleps and appetizers.



Pimento cheese is a Derby delicacy.

Adding a dash of Creole seasoning or Louisiana hot sauce along with a handful or two of chopped walnuts to store bought pimento cheese brings the c’est si bon to the party.



Stirrup Hors d’oeuvre Forks

Faux Leather Decorative Charger

Faux Leather Decorative Charger


Spode Woodland Thoroughbred Horse Dinner Plate

Large Vintage Rose Platter

Vintage Rose Platter

Encore presentation worthy for sure, I feel confident in suggesting the use of vintage beauties such as this one for Kentucky Derby party pieces.

Kentucky Hot Brown open-faced sandwich

The Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich, a Kentucky original recipe created in 1926 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, is a perfect Derby Day menu choice.

This recipe from SheKnows plates turkey, bacon, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes and a heavy-handed dollop of bechamel sauce together in all its delicious, rich and Kentucky tradition glory.

Click HERE for recipe.

Butter Pecan Praline Cake

Heather of Sprinkle Bakes recipe fame comes in first place in the winner’s circle with her recipe for Butter Pecan Praline Cake.




If baking does not fit into your party schedule or itinerary, consider picking up your favorite cake at a local or grocery store bakery and adding embellishments of choice.


Pecan Delight pie works, too.

Copycat-Piccadilly-Pecan-Delight-Pie (1)

Pecan Delight Pie

Add riding helmets and equestrian accents to your treasure hunting list when shopping antiques and resale shops.

Vintage Velvet Horse Show Riding Cap Helmet

Vintage Velvet Horse Show Riding Cap Helmet 

Perhaps a tip of the hat to a more formal affair prop.


Throw Pillow Cover Painting Horse Race Competition

Racing Horse No Cord Throw Pillow

Racing Horse No Cord Throw Pillow

Avalon Solid Monogram Wool and Cashmere Throw Decor H Blanket

Beige Merino Wool, Cashmere Plaid Throws



Kentucky Derby Party Ideas Checklist:

Scrapbook paper in 12×12 sheets found at craft stores make perfect Derby party placemats



Fresh or faux roses.

red knockout roses


White & Multi Spiky Rose Trim

Rose Trim-Tulle

Mint julep cups – a Derby must.

mint julep cups set


Mint Julep Cups




Derby Cocktail Napkins 

Fresh mint clippings for mint juleps.

Simple and fragrant, float fresh mint sprigs in clear cut glass bowls slightly filled with warm water.


Dollar store trays with the look of silver and the ease of clean up deliver a big and beautiful return on your decorating investment.


Tractor Supply meets the Derby need with nickel plated horse bits to use as napkin rings and horseshoes in packs of 4.

mouth bit for horse

Diamond Plain Bronco Horseshoe, Size 0, Pack of 4

Here’s to traditions and celebrating the Run for the Roses with win, place and show-stopping Kentucky Derby party ideas.


Show & Tell

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