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Are you ready for a Kentucky Derby party?

Jockey silks are colorful, imaginative and very bright
Courtesy of JL Johnson

For horsemen and women, lovers of gambling, or folks who just like the excitement of a big outdoor fair, the Kentucky Derby has it all. This year it all takes place: Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

If you are having guests over to watch the horse races, why not have some fun and really theme-it-out. Here are some ideas:

Decorate with hats, silver trophy cups filled with roses, and make banners that look like silks—the fantastic colors the jockeys wear. You can get official Kentucky Derby party goods from their website but you can also purchase inexpensive horse models and spray them gold for guests to take as prizes for games or just as small gift remembrances.

Don’t forget colorful beaded necklaces as this almost always has a Mardi Gras-type feeling. You can also create programs or racing booklets and of course, have everyone make bets and maybe even invite a Trifecta bet. Your wagering contest will take on more excitement if you have some horse-related jewelry to offer.

Plates, napkins and novelties from the official Kentucky Derby website do up the table, but there are also gifts or prizes for guests that add more pizzazz such as hats, key tags and more.

Pick up some great balloons and, if you have the time, make a horseshoe-shaped wreath of paper roses to hang on the front door. Use horseshoe cut-outs inside too, and remember not to let the luck run out—the ends must face up!

Dress the part
All types of clothing can be seen at the real Derby but typically women dress to the hilt and always, always wear a spring hat. The colors are riotous and very chic. If you want to have a more formal affair, invite guests to really dress the part. Men can wear fashionable suits with ascot ties and even cowboy hats. If you are the craft aficionado, have a table of art supplies and create a contest where guests can fashion their own hat and the winner gets a prize. (Make it good because guests may be reticent about crafting.) I would create some bang-up, fairly simple examples to decorate the table for inspiration.

And there are usually prizes for those guests who arrive wearing jockey silks—they’ve really gone all out! You can have a red carpet and let guests do some strutting.

Serve southern fare
Slow roast barbecue pork and shred it for fresh buns, top with coleslaw and add a side of baked beans; that will always be a hit. Your mother’s best potato salad recipe will never go untasted, guaranteed.

Have a crockpot full of liquor-laced meatballs with creamy cucumber dressing nearby. Cheesy biscuits are another favorite and spicy shrimp picks will add some heat. Don’t forget deviled eggs, ham, and grilled asparagus.

You will want plenty of snack items and make your popcorn extra festive by spicing it, or serve a Moose Munch version for the chocolate lovers.

It’s great to take sugar cookies and dress them like silks—serve these with Long Island Tea if you wish.

Take it outside
You can give the event some outside sporting flavor by fashioning a horseshoe pit and invite guests to “ring a few” before serving the more hearty food. It’s a good time to have pre-dinner light drinks, cold beers or the traditional mint juleps served in mason jars with a sprig of mint.

Early Times Mint Juleps
2 Cups sugar
2 Cups water
Sprigs of fresh mint
Crushed ice
Early Times Kentucky Bourbon
Silver Julep Cups

"No Derby Party is complete without the Mint Julep which has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. Each year, almost 120,000 Early Times Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. This is a feat that requires over 10,000 bottles of Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice."

Make simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Official Kentucky Derby glassware 12oz.Kentucky Derby 140 Julep Glasses; 12-pack $55.

Good Luck!

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