Countdown to Your Kentucky Derby Themed Event

The most exciting two minutes in sports is right around the corner and we want to help you pull off a Kentucky Derby themed event.  The Kentucky Derby has been held annually at Churchill Downs since 1875.  The race is the longest continually run sporting event in the United States. If that isn’t enough of a reason to throw a party, think of the mint juleps!

Key Elements of Throwing the perfect Kentucky Derby themed event:


Let’s start with décor.  Our team at Longwood loves statement walls upon arrival.  These showstoppers set the tone right when you walk in.  Roses are a must for any Kentucky Derby event since they will tie back into the history of the race itself.  Using rose centerpieces, or even better, rose garlands down the center of the table will represent the garland given to the winner of the race.  Including mint leaves into your centerpieces is also a unique way to tie your florals back to the Derby since they are a main ingredient in the ever-popular mint julep.  Incorporating trophies, horseshoes and preppy prints will always be on trend.  You can use these as accents throughout the event on table tops, escort cards, and at place settings.  If your event is going to be less formal, we recommend heading over to the official themed Derby decorations store at Kentucky Derby store.


Now that we have decorations handled, let’s move on to attire.  Spectators often wear bright colors and prints at the race.  Encourage your guests to wear their favorite colorful sundresses or bold ties to bring the atmosphere of the Kentucky Derby to your venue.  Suggest that the women wear their favorite Derby style hat and have a wager for the most stylish. Channel your inner royal family.


If you have ever been to an event at a Longwood venue, you know we can mix up a delicious cocktail and a Derby party would be no different.  The most iconic and official drink of the Kentucky Derby is the mint julep.  Made with bourbon, simple syrup, and mint leaves, the mint julep is best served on the rocks in a silver julep cup.  If a classic julep cup is not something readily available, a simple highball glass will do.  For a refreshing drink without alcohol, serve sweet tea.  Either of these southern staples will be sure to please the crowd at your Kentucky Derby themed event.


After a long day of festivities Chef David Blessing, Longwood’s Vice President of Culinary Arts + Development recommends hardy flavorful bites.  His twists on Kentucky favorites this season are:

  • Kentucky Hot Brown Arancini with bacon gravy
  • Crispy Pretzel Crusted Chicken Skewer with Beer Cheese sauce
  • Chicken and Waffles – This hors d’oeuvre is a crowd favorite at Longwood Venues.
  • Heritage Pork Bacon Pops with Maple Bourbon Glaze
  • Corn-grit Lobster Corndog-fun fact: the Longwood team will be serving this at Nantucket Wine and Food Festival in a few weeks.

One last, but extremely important, key to remember; if the race is going on during your Kentucky Derby-themed event, make sure guests all have a great view of the excitement. If you don’t have a ticket to the race don’t fret.  Locally our team loves spending the summer in Rhode Island at the Newport Polo fields for more pony time.

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