I have long had a deep and unexplained connection to the Kentucky Derby, culminating in actually getting to attend “Derby” in 1983. Horse racing is a grand and beautiful tradition which caps each year with the “Run for the Roses” on the first Saturday in May and the succeeding two races in horse racing’s Triple Crown. What do I love about the Kentucky Derby? The pomp and ceremony, the hats!, the sing-along of My Old Kentucky Home, the traditional juleps and foods, the perceived smell of Kentucky bluegrass, the beauty of horse country, the dedication of trainers, jockeys and owners, the history of “The Sport of Kings”, the spring in which it occurs, the trumpets that herald the start of the race, the breathless announcers (“and they’re off ..”), the names of horses and the fact that in some places you can bet on them, and of course the race itself: 1 1/4 miles, just over 2 minutes, of blistering thoroughbred beauty.
While I don’t watch a lot of TV, I love event TV and of course, involving my family in the event in kid-friendly ways, which we enjoyed for our Super Bowl party and our Oscar party and during the Summer Olympics. There are many ways to involve kids in a Derby party as well.
Have everyone wear a fun Derby hat, the more outrageous the better. Have a few hats for those who come without one.
Dress up in spring dresses, suits with bow ties, and gloves.
Write the names of all the Derby horses on slips of paper. Put slips of paper in a hat and have everyone draw one or more to root for. If you like, add a friendly wager of $1 or so to the pot for each horse and distribute the pot based on Win, Place and Show percentages (such as 10% for Win, 6% for Place and 4% for Show.)
Teach older kids some math by displaying a board with the names of the horses and the morning odds. Discuss how those odds impact the winnings.
Make and decorate with tissue-paper flowers in spring colors or Derby-rose-red.
Everyone loves dainty, fun and kid-friendly finger sandwiches.
Make and serve yummy blueberry corn muffins.
Bake and serve soft pretzels so people can feel like they are at Churchill Downs.
Derby parties call for a classic pecan pie.
Mint juleps have been a mainstay of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. Make kids’ versions with lemonade and mint.
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