The Kentucky Derby for us Plebeians

I’m not a sports fan, but I love hosting themed parties.  Any reason to dress up and decorate outside the box is a good enough reason for me!  My favorite thing about hosting parties is the planning, and I tend to spend months obsessing, organizing, crafting, and preparing for these parties…and then they’re over in an instant.  Just like the Kentucky Derby; all that preparation for a 2 minute race.  It is exciting though (party planning and the Kentucky Derby).  With any party that I plan, I start simple.  Pick a date, theme, and give everyone advanced notice that it’s happening.  In this case, the date was set by the Kentucky Derby.  Save-the-date cards went out with our Christmas cards.  When things calmed down after the holidays, I send official invitations via mail, email, Facebook, and even text message.  I have a strange love of PowerPoint and do most of my designing with that program.  Cards, invitations, ballots, wine tags, and other signs were designed in PowerPoint.  I also found some beautiful Kentucky Derby party graphics for download from Hostess with the Mostess.


derby invite


Assuming the weather would cooperate that April day in Houston (it’s always a gamble), we intended to play lawn games.  So we converted a wine glass canvas from one of those drink-while-you-paint sessions into a cornhole board.  I used spare fabric from prior projects and dried beans for the bean bags.  We also made rope rings for tossing at empty wine bottles.  This basic prep was time well spent, as the weather was lovely that day!





Correct me if I’m wrong, but the best thing about attending the Kentucky Derby or a watch party is the remarkable headwear.  The bigger the better!  The men had a bit of fun with ties, ascots, and bowties as well.  To get all guests involved in the festive fun, I made voting ballots for best hat and best bowtie.  My husband and I found Kentucky Derby wine by 14 Hands in our grocery store, so we purchased several bottles to hand out as prizes.



derby vote2

derby wine tags


Along with my husband and me, our two dogs co-hosted the party.  I dressed them up in homemade felt/craft foam saddle blankets and artificial rose leis.  Their “race numbers” represented their ages at the time of the party.  They hated the costumes at first, but then realized they were the center of attention.  Awkward walking quickly became prideful strutting.




During the party we served burgoo, bourbon and mint watermelon salad, bourbon pecan pie, lavender lemon cupcakes, popcorn, mint juleps, and strawberry basil lemonade in addition to the usual wine, veggies, and chips (staples at our parties).  We set up the “bar” area in our newly converted wine pantry (read about that DIY conversion here), the food in the kitchen, and the voting booth in the dining room.  I think everyone had a great time.  Games were played, silly hats were everywhere, we ran out of mint julips twice, and most of the food was eaten.  We even moved the party to a local restaurant for a dinner/after party!




This is a party we will repeat next year for sure!