Kentucky Derby Parties: The Fun of Churchill In Your Home

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most fascinating events in sports. Those who make the trip to Louisville to watch the race get an experience unrivaled by others. There is nothing quite like sipping on Mint Juleps and gawking at the marvelous outfits of other attendees all while being among some of the most talented horses and people in the industry.

A bouquet of roses and lilies is the centerpiece of the table at Dara Forleo's parties.

For those who cannot make it to Louisville, there is another option: a Kentucky Derby themed party.


On the Saturday in May, you will find people gathered together inside the homes of horse racing fans. They will be dressed in their best attire, devouring Derby themed foods, and playing Derby related games.


Anne Barlow has been attending Kentucky Derby themed parties since 2002 and has been hosting them since 2009. In front of Anne’s house you will be greeted with a “welcome” flag. Inside, red roses are placed everywhere as a homage to the blanket of red roses that will adorn the withers of the winner of the Kentucky Derby later that day. The table clothes are silk themed.


This is not unusual for a Kentucky Derby party. Many decorate their homes with horse statues, horse racing memorabilia, and Kentucky Derby themed plates and cups. Some parties even have roses inside of ice.

Anne Barlow makes her Kentucky Derby Party invitations by hand.

Dara Forleo, a former exercise rider, has loved racing for most of her life. Her Kentucky Derby parties are filled with traditions like $20 race pools and contests such as “Best Dressed Couple”. She even has a rule that hats must be made, not purchased. Like Dara, Anne makes sure fashion is at the forefront of her Derby parties. There is a dress code and contests like “Best Hat” and “Best Derby Day Outfit” are run. Contests like these help to keep these parties interesting until post time.


In addition to contests, hosting games is a very important part of Kentucky Derby parties. At Anne’s party you will find a game of “Derby Trivia” in which the winner of the ten question game is given vintage Derby glasses. There is also a “hat draw” where guests draw a number and the horse coordinating with that post position is their bet.  


Other parties host auctions of horses to bet, betting on which horse will place last, pin the jockey on the horse, and wagering on Derby traditions (ex: how long it will take the National Anthem to be sung).

Dara Forleo (left)

Of course, a party is not a party without some food and beverages. At Derby parties you can expect to find some Derby Pie, Kentucky Hot Brown Dip, Benedictine Spread, and other Kentucky Derby related foods. In addition to that, you will always find Mint Juleps and the occasional Oaks Lily as a nod to the fillies who raced the day before.


The 2019 Kentucky Derby is just a eleven days away, so do not delay in preparing! Let this article inspire you to run to your local store to get the supplies you need to host a Saturday full of fun, food, fashion, and horse racing!


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