Entertaining, Family Fun, Feast on This, Kentucky Derby Party, Office Parties

First Saturday in May — KENTUCKY DERBY PARTY

Jolee & ColtIt’s April.  My sweet little granddaughter is over and she is chompin’ at the bit to take a carrot across the road to feed the colt.  The neighbor’s painted mare has had her foal and he is just about the cutest thing we’ve ever seen!  He looks just like his mama, but with l-o-n-g legs and a miniature little body.  He is the star attraction at grandma’s house these days, following his mama around, nursing, nibbling on grass, and growing like a weed. Now that he has learned to walk and run, he has begun to jump and romp and play.  Oh my goodness he is darling.

Just like that little colt I’m jumping in the stalls to have a party!!!  And perhaps because of him, I want to have a Kentucky Derby party.  The timing could not be more perfect.  The annual Run for the Roses is held the first Saturday in May, the Preakness is three weeks later, and the Belmont Stakes rounds out the triple crown another two weeks after that, in June.   How fun would it be to dress up and get to go to the actual Churchill Downs in Louisville, and see the horses run live?  So much history.  So much tradition.  So many stories.

I’ve always loved horseracing.  When I was a kid, while other kids’ dads were leaping out of the stands at little league baseball games, my dad was listening to a commentator on the radio announce, “The horses are at the paddock…they’re in the gate, aaaand…(ring) THEY’RE OFF!”  Our town used to hold pari-mutuel racing at our fairgrounds for a good many years and my husband and I would go for the afternoon almost every weekend of the season.  As far as I’m concerned any sport that you can attend LIVE is the best.

At the official website for the Kentucky Derby (http://www.kentuckyderby.com/) there is a tab for planning your own Kentucky Derby Party.  There you can preview the horses and bet the derby, pick up recipes like Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie and the Early Times Mint Julep, and sort through a fitting spread of party game ideas (KentuckyDerbyParty.com).

Think I’ll call my party the Hoffman Stakes, and of course hold it at the Hoffman Downs (aka: our house).  I kind of like the idea of Derby foods too, and bluegrass music is picking in my ears.  I think it would be fun to have everyone come dressed nice, as if they were going to the real Kentucky Derby…fancy clothes, and fancy hats for the ladies (or, we could be casual and do crazy hats for the ladies and gents).  I like the idea of a Buffet of derby foods, so guests can help themselves for the duration of the party.  If I have them arrive about an hour before the telecast we can spend some time getting to know the horses and making our wagers with each other, and then when the race is about to begin we can gather around the television to watch the run-for-the-roses LIVE! After the race and the excitement and the exchange of wager winnings, I have an evening of games planned, a video game, a board game, and a yard game, in addition to all the snacking and sipping, and contests and white elephants, and…..oh just keep reading….it’s gonna be a  hoot (I hope).  I’m so excited!!!

Here’s my plan:

horse clipart1 Month Ahead – Find everything for the party:

Rose clip artPARTY GAMES (for after the big race)

Purchase and get familiar with them.  My plan: Set up a video horse racing game in the living room for 10 players, a horse race board game in the dining room for 10 players, and a horseshoes pit game outside for 10 players.  Rotate between games about every hour.

DSCN9201I chose Derby Day DVD game

This DVD game comes with a DVD, play money, lucky horseshoes (cardboard), a bookie betting board and pen, and instructions for play. I purchased mine from Amazon.com several months ago and paid about $20 for it (I believe), and it works perfectly in my USA zone DVD player.  The game is super easy to play. Just pop the DVD in the player and press start when ready. The instructions say to hand out $100,000 to each player or team for betting money. Once that is done and someone has been selected as the bookie, you press play on the DVD. The pre-race parade for race #1 pops up on the screen. In the parade each horse is shown briefly with their name and odds. There are 12 horses in each race. Once all 12 horses are shown on the board the DVD goes into pause mode so that everyone can place their bets. Once all bets have been placed you just hit the pay button and the horses are off. You watch the race and the announcer gives the play by play. At the conclusion of the race a slow motion photo finish comes up with the winning horses listed. The DVD goes into pause mode again so all winners can receive their winnings from the bookie.

There is a quick betting guide on the back page of the instructions that tell you what the pay off is for each bet under each of the odds. The horse that finishes dead last is the “Wooden Spoon” and the person or team who bet on him gets their money back. When all winners have been paid the DVD may be started again for the next race. Eight races finishes a game, and whomever has the most money at the end of the eighth race is the winner. Lucky horse shoes are used by players or teams when placing a bet and will double the amount won if the horse bet finishes in the money. Lucky horseshoes may only be used once.

At the end of 8 races you can start another eight. The horses will be the same for each of the next 8 races, but they will not finish in the same order as they did in the first 8 races. So you can play and play and play until you are sick of playing. The horses are simulated. The races are not actual race footage. It is like a video game, but it is well done. Your guests will be screaming at the TV just as if they were at a real racetrack.

DSCN9204The Horse Race Game (board game)

I purchased my game from Amazon.com quite a while back and paid around $25, I believe.  This is the game description from the manufacturer:  “Add some excitement and a real adrenaline rush to your next get-together. The Horse Race Game is one of those games your friends will ask for again and again. Players line up their horses at the gate, pay entry fees and place bets. Then roll the dice to move the horses forward or add to the purse. The anticipation grows as the pot gets bigger and the horses advance, till one crosses the line and the “”owners”” share the winnings-it’s a different race every time and anyone can win! 8 years and up.”

And this is the Product Description: “And down the stretch they come! Bring the excitement of the track into your own home with this board game tribute to the sport of horse racing! In fact, it’s the official board game of the Kentucky Derby. Don’t worry – you can’t lose any real money in this game – you’re playing with fun money! Players pay a $1.00 entry fee and are then dealt cards with racehorses on them, such as Skybiscuit and Peace Admiral. Some unlucky horses have been scratched from the race. If you roll the number of a scratched horse, you’ll have to pay the pot! If you roll the number of a remaining horse, that horse advances a spot. You’ll experience the rush of a neck-and-neck horse race, board game style! Only one horse will cross the finish line first – will it be the favorite, or will Longshot Louie take the prize? If your horse wins, you’ll collect the pot. The person with the most Fun Money at the end of the game is the winner. Game comes with Game Board, Fun Money, Horse Cards, Dice, Plastic Racehorses, and Game Instructions. For 6 or More Players, Ages 8 and Up.”

DSCN9206Outdoor Game of Horseshoes

Set up a horse shoe pit outside (I think I’ll set up an Easy-up behind each pit for shade and put misters all around each shelter to keep my players cool, since it is sometimes pretty warm in this neck of the woods this time of year.  And also, a cooler for cold beverages at each pit, and a boom box with music).

Horseshoes is an outdoor game played between two people (or two teams of two people) using four horseshoes and two stakes. The game is played by the players alternating turns tossing horseshoes at stakes in the ground, which are traditionally placed 40 feet apart.

In horseshoes, there are two ways to score: by throwing “ringers,” or by throwing the horseshoe nearest to the opposite stake. (This scoring system gives rise to the popular expression “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” — I’m such a sucker for such random and possibly useless information) A ringer is a thrown horseshoe such that the horseshoe completely encircles the stake.

Point System
1 Point – The nearest horseshoe to the stake within 6 inches
2 Points – If both of one player’s horseshoes are closer than the opponent’s or a leaner, the case where a horseshoe literally leans on the stake
3 Points – A ringer! (If each player throws a ringer, the ringers cancel and no points are scored)
Most games are played to 21, winner must win by two.

I made permanent pits because I had the perfect place and lots of room for them, but maybe you don’t want to.  Champion Sports has an indoor/outdoor horseshoes set with rubber horseshoes that can be set up instantly anywhere and offers a little bit safer play.

Rose clip artAuction & Door Prizes

Purchase a few Auction Prizes (DVDs: Secretariat, First Sunday in May, The Long Shot, Seabiscuit, a gift copy of the horseracing board game, a horseshoe ring puzzle, or…

horshoe from the kda dirty old horseshoe from Churchill Downs (pictured left)


I think I’ll also make a big batch of Bourbon Balls (recipe below) to send home with my guests, placed in cellophane bags and tied with jute and a little rose attached. Or, I could do inexpensive mint julep cups filled with dirt and have live mint plants planted in each (I have a ton of mint growing in my garden).  These could be part of the decor during the party.

blue ribbonMake Blue Ribbons for the Hat Contest

(I made blue ribbons out of construction paper years ago for a bulletin board at an elementary school.  This is what I will do with the leftovers!)

hat ladies
The Derby hat is a longstanding tradition of the Kentucky Derby. Almost all the ladies at the race or any Derby party will be wearing a spectacular hat.  For my party I was thinking I would require ALL of my guests (boys and girls) to come in CRAZY HATS!  The girls may want to wear the frilly stuff, but the men can get creative.  Drag out those Mickey Mouse Ears hats from the family trip to Disneyland, or the Rasta Hat with Dreads from the party store.  Got a sombrero?  Or Cowboy hat?  Oh my gosh…where is that coke can hat my grandma crocheted in the 80’s? Or that beer can helmet with long curly straws?  description

I’ll offer prizes for the most ornate, the most stylish, the most creative, and the most bizarre and possibly even most juvenile.


Most Outrageous Hat

Ugliest Hat

Most Colorful Hat

Biggest Hat

Smallest Hat

Most Boring



Rose clip artDO THE SHOPPING:  Buy Plates, Napkins, silver beverage cups, etc. and all the silver service I can lay hands on to serve my buffet foods in, and find decorations.

Jocky cut-outMake a banner for front door, and a jockey cut-out for photo-ops

Purchase play money to use in place of real money, if preferred for all the betting games.


Rose clip artParty Music

Every party needs great music. To set the tone for your Derby Day celebration, try a Kentucky-based play list. Here’s some inspiration to get you started.

Here is a fun selection I found from the PARTY SOURCE:

Louisville (Dwight Yokam)

Kentucky Moonshine (Pure Prairie League)
Eight More Miles to Louisville (Willie Nelson)

Kentucky Borderline (Rhonda Vincent)
Louisville (Lou Peggy Lee)
Kentucky Gambler (Merle Haggard)

Louisville KY (Ella Fitzgerald)
Blue Kentucky Girl (Emmy Lou Harris)
Kentucky Jelly (Brad Paisley)

Kentucky Derby (Chet Atkins)
Blue Moon of Kentucky (Patsy Cline)
Kentucky Rain (Elvis Presley)

My Old Kentucky Home (Three Dog Night)
Kentucky Woman (Neil Diamond)
Going Back to Old Kentucky (Ricky Skaggs)

Mint Julep (Etta Baker)
You’re in Kentucky (Rosemary Clooney)
One Mint Julep (Xavier Cugat)

*** You can go to Amazon.com, click on digital music in the search box, search for Kentucky Derby music, or any of the music listed above, and then place all your favorite tunes into your mp3 cart.  Once you’ve downloaded all your music you can burn it to a CD, or save it to a portable jump drive, or send it to your phone or mp3 player, and be ready for your party right now.  Here is a playlist I made recently:

Kentucky Derby Party Music



Rose clip artInvitationsDERBY TICKET - Copy

Plan the guest list. Let guests know that there will be a CRAZY HAT contest in various categories (craziest, prettiest, biggest, etc.) for both males and females.  If desired, ask each guest to bring one horse-themed white elephant type gift to trade for wager money (use these gifts as Auction/Door prizes at the end of the party).

Make a flyer listing this information, and include a ticket (like the one I made, pictured to the right, based on ideas I found online) for each guest in the envelope with the flier.  Tickets can be created on the computer or ordered from Party411 online.

The invitations/tickets should have the seat assignments for each guest listed somewhere on the ticket.  I placed mine at the bottom.  The guests won’t have a clue what those numbers mean until they arrive at the party and are asked to present their ticket.  The numbers will tell them what game they will be starting at.  I will have a number taped to each “seat” of the three games.  The players will have to walk around and find their starting place.  After the first game is played, divide the players of the horseshoe pits into two groups, and also the DVD and board gamers.  Send half of each group to join half of another group at a new game (so that everyone mixes and mingles).  Do the same for the last game as well.

20160523_132117-1[1].jpgRose clip artSET THE TABLE!  There are a few horse print tablecloths available online (Horse & Hound, Party City, Amazon.uk, Amazon.com), if you plan ahead and give yourself time for shipping.  OR, you can toss any  tablecloth down (burlap, black and white, turf, white linen and lace, etc.) and then find some cute horseshoe eyewear at the party stores, or some real horseshoes from your local seed/feed store (painted gold, black, OR flat gray) and scatter them around on your table, along with a selection of little horse figurines (found in the toy section at most Wal-mart stores).  Set each place with red plates (layer a square plate on top of a large oval plate, and top with a small round plate, even alternate colors – red with a black print and silver charger/underplate on bottom).   Add a ROSE  print hand towel to each (you can even tie up the silverware with a thin leather lace, and silk rose), and then for a centerpiece fill a galvanized metal bucket with stemmed red roses.

Rose clip artPlan the Food and Drink (make my shopping list)   Purchase the ingredients that are not perishable now, and those that are perishable a day or two before the party.


Henry Bain Sauce was originated by the head waiter at the Pendennis Club in Louisville in 1881 and is a mainstay of Derby cuisine.  Freeze any leftover sauce for later use.

YIELD: Makes 3 dozen appetizer or 12 main-dish servings


1 (9-ounce) bottle chutney

1 (14-ounce) bottle ketchup

1 (12-ounce) bottle chili sauce

1 (10-ounce) bottle steak sauce

1 (10-ounce) bottle Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 (4 1/2- to 5-pound) beef tenderloin, trimmed

Dinner rolls


Process chutney in a food processor until smooth. Add ketchup and next 4 ingredients, and process until blended. Chill sauce at least 2 hours.

Stir together butter, salt, and pepper; rub over tenderloin. Place on a lightly greased rack in a jellyroll pan. (Fold under narrow end of tenderloin to fit on rack.)

Bake at 500° for 30 to 35 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of tenderloin registers 145° (medium-rare). Loosely cover tenderloin with aluminum foil, and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serve tenderloin with sauce and dinner rolls.   — Southern Living MARCH 2004



Another cornerstone of Louisville cuisine is the Hot Brown Sandwich. Created by the chef of the Brown Hotel, this open-faced sandwich consists of two slices of toast topped with juicy roast turkey, tomato slices, crispy bacon, and a blanket of Cheddar-Parmesan cheese sauce. The sandwich is then broiled until the cheese sauce turns golden brown.  Many variations can be found, most commonly country ham is added and a cheddar sauce is substituted.  http://www.thepartysource.com/derby/derby_recipes.php

Serves 8
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


2 pounds sliced turkey breast (I have used the sliced packaged roast turkey breast, found near the sliced hams in the meat section at Walmart…and I have also purchased peppered sliced turkey breast from my grocer’s deli counter – sliced just under about 1/8th inch thickness.  Both worked really well.)
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
16 thick slices ripe beefsteak tomato
16 slices apple wood-smoked bacon, cooked crisp
Cheese sauce (recipe follows)
8 slices of good fresh-baked farm bread (I found an english muffin bread loaf that was perfect)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish


4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups half and half
1 ½ cup grated sharp white cheddar (I used a mixture of sharp, medium, and mild)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or two until the raw flour flavor has cooked away. Whisk in the half and half and bring to a steam, whisking constantly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese until just melted.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To assemble: Top each slice of bread with about 3 slices of turkey breast. Ladle the sauce over the top, sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano over the cheese sauce. Place under the broiler and cook until bubbly and golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and top each with two slices of tomato, and two pieces of bacon. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.


From Louisville’s Benedict Hotel comes the Benedictine, a cucumber canapé spread.


1 large cucumber, grated

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 small onion, grated

1/4 tsp salt

1 drop green food coloring (optional)

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

Squirt of Tabasco Sauce or dash of cayenne

Crustless white bread

Olives, cherry tomatoes, parsley, or watercress for garnish

To make it, start by grating the cucumber, skins and all. Wring it out in paper towels to absorb most of the moisture. Combine with remaining ingredients in food processor and pulse until well combined.

The most common way to eat the Benedictine is to make finger sandwiches by spreading the mixture on bread. With a round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut rounds out of bread slices. Spread a small amount of mayonnaise on bread rounds. Spread cheese mixture on half the rounds and top with another round. After spreading the mixture on the bread, thread cherry tomatoes and black or green olives on decorative toothpicks and use for a garnish. Or, garnish with a sprig of parsley or watercress.

This mixture also makes a fantastic dip for veggies and crackers.


The cranberries make these Cranberry Chicken Salad finger sandwiches a bit sweeter than cucumber sandwiches. They are colorful and look great on a tray of canapés.

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

4 cups shredded chicken

1/4 cup onion

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Add mayonnaise, sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to a food processor and pulse until well blended.

Add chicken, onion and cranberries and pulse until mixture is well combined but still a bit chunky. If needed add a couple tablespoons of milk to achieve a spreadable consistency.

Spread cranberry chicken salad on bread squares (I like whole wheat) and serve cold. Makes 24 finger sandwiches.


1 (18 ounce) jar peach preserves

1 (18 ounce) jar orange marmalade

1 (18 ounce) jar apple preserves

1 (18 ounce) jar pineapple preserves

5/8 cup ground dry mustard

1 (4 ounce) jar prepared horseradish

In a bowl thoroughly mix all ingredients.  May be stored in sterile containers in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.  Great served poured over cream cheese and served with wheat thins crackers.


There can be only one dessert on Derby Day and that is Derby Pie.  The original Derby Pie is about half a century old.  George Kern and his parents Walter and Leaudra worked together to invent the dense chocolaty, nutty dessert at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky where George was manager.  If you want true authenticity, order one and have it shipped right to your door (http://www.derbypie.com/new/bring_a_pie_home.html). If you order it from A Taste of Kentucky they will ship it with an honest to goodness dirty old horseshoe from a horse that has run at Churchill Downs attached to the top of the box.  Fun!

Although I’ve never been to Kentucky, nor ever had a slice of George Kern’s original creation, the descriptions remind me of a Nestle Toll House Pie I made several years ago.  The pie was soooooo yummy that I clipped the recipe from whatever magazine and saved it for all these years.  This is a fitting time I think to pull it out and make it over into my own Racetrack Pie.  Since there’s not a Kentuckian on my guest list, I doubt anyone will ever know it’s a knock off.


2 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shells, thawed, pricked with a fork.
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon  (Jim Beam)

1 1/2 cup butter, softened room temp
1 cup Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate Premium Baking Chips
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans if you prefer)

PREHEAT oven to 325° F.


BEAT eggs in large bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, sugar, brown sugar, and bourbon.  Beat in butter. Stir in morsels and nuts.  Spoon into pie shells, dividing equally between the two.

BAKE for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve with a scoop of ice cream on top, and a tiny drizzle of bourbon splashed over (optional).DSCN8946


Note:  If you live in south Texas and have an HEB near you, they have recently come out with some designer ice cream flavors.  The Whiskey & Honey is a perfect topper for this wonderful pie!  If you don’t live in Texas and don’t have an HEB, I’m sorry for you.  Maybe Ben & Jerry’s has something similar???



1 cup finely crushed vanilla wafers

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1-1/2 cup of powdered sugar, divided

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

2 tablespoons bourbon

1-1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Combine vanilla wafer crumbs, chopped pecans, and 1 cup of the powdered sugar. In a measuring cup, blend the bourbon and corn syrup and stir into the dry mixture.

When thoroughly blended, cover and refrigerate for an hour or more.

Sift about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar onto a large piece of waxed paper. Shape small amounts of the dough into balls then roll in powdered sugar.

Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Makes about 3 dozen.


20160523_131146[1]MINT JULEP

I had my first sip of Mint Julep when my husband and I visited the Oak Alley Plantation just outside of New Orleans and dined in their little restaurant on the grounds.  Seems like they had a few different versions.  I don’t remember which one he ordered, a lemon one I think, and I remember liking it.  You can’t have a Kentucky Derby party without Mint Juleps.  For my party, I was thinking of making a pitcher and lettin’ people fix their own glasses, first with crushed ice and mint sprigs, then julep mix, and stir.  They can help themselves all party long.

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

6 or 8 sprigs fresh mint

Crushed ice

5 cups good Kentucky Whisky/Bourbon  (a pint + a fifth)

Silver Julep Cups (they must be silver, never paper or plastic)

Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered pitcher with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight.

Ideally you would make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces Whisky. Then stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. For the sake of convenience I’ll add my bourbon/whiskey and my mint syrup to a beverage DSCN8949container just before the party and let my guests toss a shot of this Julep mix over a cup full of crushed ice (Sonic sells their wonderful ice by the bag, by the way, and it’s PERFECT!!!).  Garnish with mint sprig.

NOTE:  I made a non-alcoholic version of mint julep for a luncheon recently.  I added the minty simple syrup to my large galvanized beverage serving container and then substituted the bourbon for 5 quarts of Lemon Seltzer water.  I chilled it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  I filled each Julep cup with Sonic ice, covered the ice with minty seltzer water mixture, and then garnished each with a lemon slice and sprig of mint.  It wasn’t bad…refreshing actually!

I have looked and looked and looked for inexpensive metal cups for my Juleps for several years, and have been unsuccessful.  At the last minute I ended up buying my little silver disposable (taboo plastic) cups at Party city.  You might have some luck shopping at the Party Source  for yours.


Mix up a big batch of fresh brewed iced tea and/or a huge pitcher of real lemonade and have in a serving container on the drink buffet.  Have a container of the minty simple syrup setting nearby, along with crushed ice and mint sprigs.  Let your guests fill their silver cups with crushed ice, drizzle the desired amount of syrup over the ice, and add their tea or lemonade, then garnish with mint sprigs.

Want more food ideas?  Check out these Top 20 Kentucky Derby Recipes http://allrecipes.com/Recipes/Holidays-and-Events/Events-and-Gatherings/Kentucky-Derby/Top.aspx


9. May Luncheon

Rose clip artA Derby Party is also a great theme for a luncheon.  I had the honor recently of hosting an end-of-the-year luncheon for the staff of a local school.  Since the luncheon landed in May, in the middle of the triple crown horse racing season, and since it was getting down to the finish line of school, a Derby theme seemed a perfect choice.  


horse clipart2 Weeks Ahead

Make and send invitations (and remember to mention the CRAZY hat contest)

Order red roses from florist, or purchase silk roses

Play the board game(s) enough to get familiar with how to play them, and how long a game will last.  Make sure race DVD works.

Arrange for helpers.  Need a helper to be the bookie for the DVD races game, and one to explain play of the board games; another at the horse shoe pit.  (You will be busy keeping the food fresh and drinks full).  Need someone to serve snacks, and usher people to their start locations, and someone to take pictures.

Confirm that you have all your serving dishes and pieces, glassware, etc.  If you are throwing a big party, this is the time to make sure you have enough tables and chairs and make arrangements to rent some if needed.

horse clipart1 Week Ahead

Grocery shop for all non-perishable items and stock the bar.

Prep and/or cook any make-ahead items.

Make blue ribbons for the hat awards, and ballots.

horse clipart2 Days before the Party

Clean the house

Do all the decorating and set up the buffet table.

Adorn tables with vases for the red roses and set some decorative horse shoes around.

Set up the jockey cut-out.

Set up the betting booth.

Check to make sure you have all the parts and pieces to all the games and enough plates, cups, napkins for guests.


horse clipartDay before the Party

Get out all serving pieces, fill vases with flowers and place in fridge, chill beverages.

Do all the perishable grocery shopping, beers, and get several bags of ice.

Prepare whatever foods can be made up a day ahead.

Pick up the roses from the florist and keep in the refrigerator until ready to set out.

Make sure the horse shoe pit is ready to play, set up gazebos, and set out a cooler for ice and beers.

Set up the prize table.

Have blue ribbons for the hat awards.

Set up the table for Auction/Door prizes

Arrange for a helper to serve snacks on trays


horse clipartDay of the Party


Prepare last minute foods for party.

Place roses on tables.

Place a sign on front door and/or yard signs.

Set music up in CD player and horse race DVD in DVD player.

Set up the board game(s) on the dining table. 

Place race forms, funny money, betting cards, and pencils near the TV where the DVD races will be shown.

Set up board game(s) at dining room table(s).

horse clipart2-3 hours before guests arrive

Chill out; take a nap, a shower, veg in front of the TV, relax.  Be a guest at your own party.  It will be so much more fun that way.


Make sure the horse shoe pit cooler is filled with ice and beers and have it ready to take out at last minute.

Set out food and drinks on hot plates and in ice buckets, buffet style.

Start music playing in the background for when guests arrive.  Make sure the CD with the trumpet tune is ready to go on a boom box.

Make sure you’re dressed and ready to greet your guests with your full, relaxed, warm, southern hospitality.

horse clipart4PM  PARTY TIME! 

As guests arrive make a big to-do about their hats and take pictures.

Encourage guests to help themselves to drinks and snacks

Collect the horse gifts brought and place on Auction/Door prizes table; inform them of what game they will be starting with and have your helper assist them in locating their seat

Let everyone mingle until all guests have arrived.

Parade of hats (take lots of pictures)!  Encourage guests to take photos of themselves behind the jockey cut-out (silks) between sets of play.

Explain the order of play for the evening.

Ask guests to help themselves to the buffet table to eat, and let them know it will be open all evening.


Hand out Racing forms with the lineup of horses.  Direct guests to the Kentucky Derby website if they want to place any real bets.

Have the television tuned to the station that the race will be broadcast on.  Allow guests to mingle and talk about horses.


Watch the race on TV.

Give guests a few minutes to celebrate and talk about the race.


Begin play at each game station, and the wagering for the first race, at the sound of the trumpet tune (which should be ready to play on CD player).

   …And They’re Off 

Play the video for the first race, and start the other games simultaneously

Repeat wagering and video races at whatever pace will keep things hopping, allowing guests to snack and talk between races.

If the DVD has 12 races, play one every 15 minutes (to go with the board game taking about an hour).  Each group will watch 4 DVD races before moving to the next station.

All players rotate to next game.  Allow time for snacking and drink refills.

***Pass out ballots and have guests vote on the hats.  Collect ballots.


All players rotate to next game.  Allow for more snacking or dessert and coffee.


All sessions wind to a close.

Call guests together and let them use their winnings to bid on the Auction/Door prizes

***Award prize ribbons for “best hats”

What if I have a guest list of night owls who want to party on late into the night?  I want to be prepared with plenty of snacks and if we have to run out for more beverages we will.  We could gather everyone around the TV and play the DVD game, or gather everyone around the table and play the board game, or set up some lights outside for a night game of horseshoes…for as long as everyone is having fun.

Before my guests leave, remember to give door prizes (gifts) as they head off into that good night. 🙂

“I returned and saw … the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all”    Ecclesiastes 9:11

1 thought on “First Saturday in May — KENTUCKY DERBY PARTY”

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