The Kentucky Derby, Party Like a Native

Marta Block


This time of year I get a lot of calls from friends going to my hometown of Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. They always want to know what "locals" do for Derby, where they should go, etc. Here's the thing though, us locals know that Derby is the best time of year to stay home and throw a party.

Seriously, all of our favorites that we think of as "our places" from Hillbilly Tea to the never-changing Bristol are all of a sudden overrun by out-of-towners. The parking lot of Lynn's Paradise Cafe is filled with people taking pictures with the blue-bear Elvis and Bardstown Road is crawling with people who don't know where the old White Castle was. If you truly want to celebrate Derby like a Louisvilian, here's what you do, stay home and throw a party!

Derby parties are great because you have a genuine excuse to start the party as early in the day as you want, by 10 am is generally best. You can serve brunch food (less expensive than a cocktail party or dinner), and spend the whole day drinking, talking, catching up, break for a few minutes to sing My Old Kentucky Home, then break for two minutes to watch the race. By 5:30 ish the party is over. You're tired and a little tipsy and it's time to go home. You take a nap and then go out to someone else's evening party. As if all that weren't enough, you also get to wear a big hat!

Wondering what to serve? Well, mint juleps or any bourbon based drink is fitting, as is anything with lemonade or sweet tea (or combine them to create an Arnie Palmer). For food - Derby Pie, Hot Brown sandwiches and Benedictine spread were all created in Louisville. You'll have the TV on in the background, but Derby parties are a great time for games or karaoke. Informal betting on the race will add to the excitement!

Louisville usually has great weather this time of year, so a lot of locals will rent a party tent and move at least part of the party outside. For music, why not get inspired by some of our Bluegrass bands? Or go with some Louisville musicians like My Morning Jacket, Joan Osborne, folk favorite-Will Oldahm or swinging hipsters Love Jones (actually playing that weekend, which may get some Louisvillians in their 40s out and about). Will you be having or going to a Derby Party? Find party ideas with The Bash!