Run For The Roses: Kentucky Derby Weekend Entertaining Ideas


KENTUCKY DERBY Collage - Run For The Roses ideas

Brush off your seersucker suit, pick up dozens of red roses, polish the silver julep cups and prepare the mint! It’s Kentucky Derby Weekend! From luxury ladies as belles in big hats, to Southern gents in their seersucker suits and bow-ties – from Louisville to horse lovers around the world, all eyes will be focused this weekend, Saturday, May 3rd, 2014, on the start of the Triple Crown Season with the Kentucky Derby!

Looking to celebrate in this years 140th event? Here are three ways to graciously celebrate Derby day: 1. Go to Churchill Downs to watch the Derby live. 2. Host an elegant and fancy “Millionaires Row” viewing party or 3. Host a relaxed and casual “Insiders Track” backyard buffet. Whichever way you choose to celebrate the Kentucky Derby this weekend, here are 5 traditions to keep in mind when planning your soiree, some inspired from The Kentucky Derby Museum.


 Derby Table ideas: Use a riding boots umbrella stand for your “Millionaire’s Row” indoor centerpiece, or set a laid back country barbeque table for your “insiders Track” Derby celebration outdoors. As an alternative to serving bourbon, freeze red roses to use a chillers for your champagne or white wine…

Get Derby ready: Tour a Polohouse Derby Party setting and also brush up on your Derby vocabulary here and view more stylish hats in the Derby hat gallery at

F I V E   K E N T U C K Y  D E R B Y  T R A D I T I O N S

1. Mint Julep

Tradition Back Story: The Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. It is an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint, and a sweet syrup, traditionally served in a commemorative Kentucky Derby glass. (first offered in 1939 and available in revised form each year since) printed with all previous Derby winners. The Mint Julep Glass history began in 1938 and were actually just water glasses. According to racetrack folklore, the glasses were so popular that they disappeared from the tables in the track’s dining rooms. Track management decided to charge dining room patrons an extra .25 cents if they wanted to keep the glasses. Since its 1938 inception, the Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Glass has grown in popularity and is often viewed as the leading Kentucky Derby collectible. In 1939, the official Derby glass has been produced by Libbey, with several designs since. learn more about the Mint Julep at Kentucky Derby Traditions.

Quench your thirst for refreshing & crisp Spring fashion and beverages: Try a fresh twist on the Southern classic – The Mint Julep, but with lavender. Get the Lavender Mint Julep recipe at Pizzazzerie.


 Signature Mint Julep

Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, however if you go to the Derby, you need to order this drink by the Woodford name or you will be served an Early Times Whiskey Julep instead. Here is the recipe for the Woodford Mint Julep from

Muddle 3 mint sprigs, sugar and water in bottom of Julep cup or highball glass and fill with crushed ice. Fill with bourbon, stir. Dust 4th mint sprig with powdered sugar for garnish. Serve with straw.


2. Sterling Julep Cups

Tradition Back Story: Traditionally, the governor of Kentucky salutes the victorious Derby owner with a toast at the fashionable Winner’s Party following the race with this 12 fluid ounce sterling silver cup. The cup was originally introduced in 1951, as another official, useful souvenir of the Kentucky Derby.

Incorporate a “Run For the Roses’ feel from fashion in your Derby hat, to entry gate or door decor with a red rose horseshoe Derby wreath, and even Derby desserts such as red rose chocolate cupcakes – served on a silver platter…

Another beverage alternative, and beautiful way to create a signature cocktail to your “Run For The Roses” soiree is to also serve a Sparkling Rose & Juniper Cocktail – perfect for Spring!

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3. Run For the Roses – Nickname for the Kentucky Derby

Tradition Back Story: A lush blanket of 564 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year. The tradition originated in 1883 when New York socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to ladies at a post-Derby party that was attended by Churchill Downs founder and president, Col. M. Lewis Clark. This gesture is believed to have led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race’s official flower. However, it was not until 1896 that any recorded account referred to roses being draped on the Derby winner.Learn more about The Garland Of Roses at Kentucky Derby Traditions.

4. My Old Kentucky Home
Tradition Back Story: At Churchill Downs, when the Derby contenders come on the track, the University of Louisville Marching Band plays the official state song of Kentucky. Everyone, in the stands and watching from home, sings Stephen Foster’s classic song, “My Old Kentucky Home.” I’ve read it is emotional and people often cry, in memory of past Derbys and because of the great love Kentuckians have for their home state. Below are the lyrics, Kentuckians will know them. If you have guests unfamiliar with “My Old Kentucky Home,” pass out the lyrics below, so everyone can sing along…

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home

‘Tis summer, the people are gay;

The corn top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom,

While the birds make music all the day;

The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,

All merry, all happy, and bright,

By’n by hard times comes a-knocking at the door,

Then my old Kentucky home, good night!

Last but not at all least in the list of Kentucky Derby Traditions, are the fashion. Before getting to the back story and of course, those hats, here are some traditional attire for the men Derby goers today…

Need a seersucker suit for Derby Weekend? Try this one above from Ralph Lauren

Be a Handsome Gentleman in linen – another mens suit alternative perfect for Spring and Derby day!


Mens style tips: Never match your bow-tie & pocket square – mix it up! 


Personalize your Derby style with a hand made, Italian silk, custom couture pocket square


Be festive with a mix of prints from graphic ticking stripe, gingham, or windowpane plaid to polka-dots, checks or paisley like these from Vineyard Vines – your destination for official Kentucky Derby Style and Ties…

This coordinated couple looks just darling and dandy in relaxed but still gracious Derby attire.

5. Derby Fashion and that HAT!

Tradition Back Story: While gloves are out of fashion, a hat never is, and they tend to get wilder and more expensive every year. The style of the insiders track today is defiantly relaxed, with women wearing cool sundresses, cotton skirts, or more frequently shorts. For men, it’s all about a crisp clean shirt, two-tone shoes, a needlepoint belt, a festive tie, and possibly – that seersucker suit! No doubt, the Kentucky Derby over the years has earned its reputation as a fashion playground. Since its inception, a concept inspired here in the states to bring over a bit of European elegance, grandeur and culture, the spectacular fashions often seen at the Kentucky Derby are not solely a product of modern times, for the opulent feminized dress and festive mens attire have played a large role in the history of the Kentucky Derby.

 This is the essence of derby wear. Dress sweet and demure, beautiful hat. Pure elegance. One of the many stunning and stylish hats featured on the collaborative Kentucky Derby ideas board – Talk Derby To Me

Derby ladies go all out with a stylish and stunning hats, like this sophisticated black & white hat by Nigel Rayment Millinery.

Be inspired for your Derby style by the weird and wonderful hats and Isabella Kirstensen of the Royal Ascot

I’ve read if you don’t dress to stand out at the Kentucky Derby, you’re doing it wrong (cute!).  One way to stand out in the crowd is to turn up the color volume on an already bright hat, like this bright wide brim hat with garden style…

You’re never too young to start to become a gracious Derby girl – Practice makes perfect at a tea party

Not at the track, but these lovely local ladies still graciously gathered to celebrate Derby day: Jayne Sharp and Claudia Loy, front from left, and Lynda Weissenger, Carole Ardison, Teresa Call, Judy Reeves, Connie Milam, back, in their Run for the Roses soiree.

So, even if you can’t be there in person, you’re now on track to participate in the festivities of Derby – Be inspired by these 5 traditions above and host your own Kentucky Derby party with these 5 Tips below:

1. Decide whether you’re going all out formal or casual and laid back.

2. Decide which traditional Kentucky foods to serve.

3. Decide what to drink – have Kentucky bourbon on hand, and mint juleps are a must – but wine or ice tea are alternatives.

4. Have everyone attending sing the opening ceremony ballad, “My Old Kentucky Home”

5. Include a big screen TV in your party setting, and place bets! For a listing of TV channels and Radio Stations, click here.


 An Historic Kentucky Home

Keep this diagram handy: How To Set Your Buffet Table, and also watch this video from Martha Stewart

Love this idea for chair details with prize ribbons from horse shows…

 So are you ready to celebrate the 140th Kentucky Derby this weekend? What are some traditions you celebrate for the Kentucky Derby? Is this your first Derby? Or have you experienced Churchill Downs? Hadley Court would love to hear your Derby stories… Maybe even this weekend, we can all be a part of the Kentucky Derby via social media – just upload a pic of yourself in your Derby hat or your fave hat you’ve seen on Pinterest as your avatar on Facebook. Here’s a cover to share as well…


Right click this image above to save to your computer – then upload to Facebook for your Derby Weekend cover!

For additional Derby inspirations, from Derby inspired recipes to crafts, visit the group board I’m collaborating with on Pinterest, Talk Derby To Me, administered by the Daily Basics.

If you have a lawn jocky, you still have time to give him a fresh coat of paint before Saturday’s festivities! I hope this post, and images such as this gorgeous capture at Churchill Down – Kentucky Derby from Sniper Photography help inspire you and get you Derby day ready! 

For more entertaining tips for your home, visit Hadley Court’s Gracious Entertaining Category plus also visit Hadley Court on Pinterest today. Be sure also to subscribe to Hadley Court, and to follow Leslie on Hadley Court on social media via Facebook, G+, and Twitter

We also invite you to consider making a donation to, a Kentucky charity supported by Kentucky’s First Lady, Jane Brashear, that raises funds for mammograms for Kentucky’s horse industry workers. Read all about #PINKOUT, this Friday, at Churchill Downs, on

Happy Derby Day and thanks for reading!

 Lynda Quintero – Davids

Leslie Hendrix Wood

Founder, Editor In Chief

Hadley Court




  1. says

    We are going to a derby party this weekend, and I have my hat and my husband’s bow tie all ready….such a fun time! Thanks for all of the great tips!!

    • Leslie Hendrix WoodLeslie Hendrix Wood says

      Did you have a good time at the Derby Party? Thanks for taking your time to leave a comment, we appreciate it, and are so happy to hear you enjoyed our tips!

      The Team At Hadley Court