When you think of the Kentucky Derby, springtime colors, floral accents, and lavish table settings surely come to mind. Although you undoubtedly want to bring a touch of derby class to your soirée, you don’t have to think in terms of unattainable decadence.
To appeal to adults, look to hone in on key traditional elements of the race that will be easy to place in and around your home. Create centerpieces out of red roses and old trophies. Metal horseshoes with printed name tags make for cute place cards and favors. Keep the little ones involved by setting up a table for the kids to call their own and decorate it in kid-friendly Derby-inspired spreads. Set the scene with adorable horse figurines and props that will make the little ones feel like it is a celebration for them alone.
Any good host knows to inform his or her guests about the dress code. As the Kentucky Derby is known for showcasing the latest fashions, it would be easy to tell your friends to show up in their Sunday best. But when you factor kids into the equation, high fashion can turn into a high headache. Make it fun by challenging friends to show up with the craziest hats they can find. Another fun idea would be to enforce a "thrift shop only" dress code, where guests must arrive in vintage wear. Instead of stressing about dressing the kids, let the little ones participate by having a chest of dress-up clothes available — they will love mixing and matching goofy outfits that will surely make all of you giggle.
The best part about food is that it is one of the great equalizers, and a Kentucky Derby-inspired menu is no exception. For crowd-pleasers, look to down-home Southern cooking that will make it feel as if you took a real trip to the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line. For instance, serving favorites like fried chicken and fried green tomatoes will have everyone licking their fingers while they mingle.
But to keep everyone even happier, it doesn’t hurt to play to your audience. The big guys in the room will absolutely love traditional Derby eats like mini hot browns and bourbon balls. Little ones will be blown away by these rose cupcakes (well, so will the adults) and won’t be able to get enough of these mini mac and cheese bites that are just the right size for them.
We all know that soirées and signature cocktails go hand in hand. While the Kentucky Derby’s traditions are many, almost none of them are as significant as the mint julep. Adults can enjoy this cocktail all Derby Day long, but what about the little ones? Emerald Mint Milkshakes are a perfect way for the kids to enjoy a part of the fun, or even some alcohol-free mint julep iced tea. Either way, all must be served in these crafty julep cups that can double as party favors that guests can take home.
Aside from actually watching the race, there is plenty to do at your next Derby party. Adults can play games of horseshoes and run a pool, with the winner walking away with the pot. While you could always let the kids in on the fun, it wouldn’t hurt to set up a "hat station" that parents could supervise between turns. With some fabric glue, craft supplies, and a ton of old hats, the kids can redefine high fashion and make the best Derby hats Louisville has ever seen. If you are looking to spend some quality time together, have your friends and their children participate in relay races together in the back yard before you host a now guilt-free Derby pie eating contest.