Organizers might have officially postponed the running of the Kentucky Derby to September 15, but that is no reason to weep into your mint julep! The Louisville Tourism Board (in Kentucky, of course) has dubbed April as Mint Julep month since 2013 as a lead-in to the May race, and Garden & Gun magazine has launched a website in support of the month-long celebration that benefits the Kentucky Waterways Alliance.
Secondly, famed Kentucky bourbon Woodford Reserve is joining with race site Churchill Downs for a nationwide, at-home celebration on May 2nd (its original date) that honors the tradition and pageantry of the Derby while also raising up to $2 million for people impacted by the global pandemic. (For how to participate, read all about it, here.)
I am married to a man from Kentucky, so we are very much in favor of all of this, and plan on our own Derby Day activities around here, both before, during, and after May 2nd. After all, the race is over in just over a minute, but the party is a month long! And we think you should celebrate as well! Here’s how to do it right, right now. Either line up your party with the virtual one on May 2, or pick a date to make your personal Derby Day and make it one for the memory books (and social media posts) with this easy guide, from what to wear and watch to what to eat and drink.
Dress everyone up.
For starters, everyone knows that Derby Day is a time to break out the fancy outfits and put on your most outlandish hats! So, it is time for us all to tap into our inner milliners, especially if you have kids in the house. Grab whatever chapeau you might have on hand and see what you have lying around the house to embellish it with. Feathers, fake flowers, ribbons, jewelry… go super over the top. Maybe have a little hat competition with your family. Want to show them off? Plan a Zoom party with pals, do photo shoots for your social media, or have a socially distant parade with your neighbors.
Get the kids (if you’ve got them) tuned into Derby fever.
Take a Virtual Tour.
Never been to the Derby and dream of experiencing the magic of Churchill Downs? The Kentucky Derby Museum and other partners will offer virtual tours, cocktail how-tos, fascinator-making instructions, an at-home Derby fashion contest and more.
Cue the ponies.
Derby Day is an excuse for a party, so with no race to watch this spring, think about streaming a horse racing movie like Seabiscuit or Secretariat, or maybe a silly one like Racing Stripes for the kids. If you want to go classic, there’s a 1949 Shirley Temple movie called The Story of Seabiscuit as well.
On May 2 from 3 - 6 pm Eastern on NBC, there will be a special stay-at-home broadcast that includes a re-airing of the 2015 Kentucky Derby (the first jewel in that year's Triple Crown won by American Pharoah) and a virtual Derby that includes the 13 past Triple Crown winners and uses data about each horse to help to determine the probability of their finishing positions.
Call your own race.
If you have been following any of your favorite sportscasters on social media, many of them are missing their play-by-play action, and have been posting videos of them “calling” what they are seeing in everyday life, from their dogs wrestling over chew toys to moms pushing strollers in the parks. If you live, like I do, in a neighborhood with a lot of dog-walking, jogging, and bike-riding action, it can be wildly entertaining to sit on your front porch or stoop and take turns channeling your inner sportscaster and calling the “races." A bourbon-based cocktail can make this a hilariously enjoyable activity.
Speaking of cocktails…
Ready to embrace Mint Julep Month? These recipes are all terrific, but if you’re in the mood for something different, join us in our favorite Derby Day drink: a Pimm’s Cup! This cucumber version will make a Derby Day at home feel like a Spring celebration.
Whip up a bunch of delicious Derby bites.
If you have never had a traditional Kentucky Benedictine Tea Sandwich, now is the time! These delicate sandwiches pack a wallop of flavor, and I always make twice as many as I think I will need, and I always run out!
The Hot Brown is a Kentucky favorite open-faced sandwich, of turkey, bacon, tomato, and a cheesy mornay sauce. We love the classic sandwich, but also approve of this tart version or turning it into a fondue-like dip!
Pimiento cheese is the official cheese spread of the South, and very welcome at your Derby party! If you want to make your own, try this version. And if you have leftovers, make these insanely easy pimiento cheese crackers.
No Derby party would be complete without country ham on biscuits, and these mini sandwiches are sure to please.
When it is time for dessert, Kentuckians love to add their favorite tipple to their sweets. Try a bourbon chocolate pecan pie or some classic bourbon balls. For the kids and the teetotalers, make a traditional banana pudding or, since spring in Kentucky means strawberries, you can’t go wrong with strawberry shortcake.