I grew up near Louisville, Kentucky, in Southern Indiana (on the “sunny side,” we like to say), where the first Saturday in May is the biggest party day of the year. When I was a kid, my parents always threw a Kentucky Derby party at our house. In high school and college, I went to the race with friends—picnicking and partying in the infield all day, waiting for a 2 minute race—but when I moved to New York after graduating, I began hosting my own party. It started out with a handful of guests—only 15 could fit in my tiny apartment. But now that I’m in a house with a family of my own, it’s grown to a massive gathering of friends old and new—as I write this, my evite for next Saturday has 77 RSVPs.
Over the last 20+ years, I’ve kept notes how to make my Kentucky Derby party better year after year—from the dress code (Derby hats encouraged but not required) to the food and drinks (yes, of course I serve Mint Juleps). These are my best Kentucky Derby party ideas for throwing a legendary party of your own.