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    If you're not attending the Kentucky Derby, odds are you're going to a Derby party or hosting a Derby party. A Derby party is a fun way to enjoy the festivities of the Derby with your family and friends. Below are a few ideas that will make your Derby party something all will enjoy.

    Hit the jackpot: At most Derby parties, a jackpot is collected for the featured race with each participant putting in a set dollar amount and randomly drawing a horse's name from a cup. There are variations on the rules, but the rules are typically disclosed as the pot is collected. The person with the winning horse may take the entire jackpot, there may be a payout for first, second, third, or last place, or any other pre-determined payout. In my family, the jackpots begin as soon as enough guests have arrived to cover the entries in the upcoming race, with the winner taking the full jackpot. We'll usually have as many jackpots as is necessary to cover everyone interested in playing, with several jackpots of varying amounts reserved for the Derby.

    A variation on the jackpot, which works better at smaller parties, allows guests to use their own skill to pick their horse. In this game, guests will buy a horse and will share the overall pool gathered for that race with all others who have also bought the winning horse. The jackpot organizer will collect a dollar (one part) from each person and make a notation of which horse that person thinks will win the race and how many parts are bet. After the race, the jackpot organizer will divide the jackpot evenly by the number of correct bets and pay out accordingly. For example, I pick horse #7 to win and pay/bet $2. Three other players also pick horse #7 and pay $1 each. Five other players pick various other horses and pay $1 each. That's a jackpot of $10. Horse #7 wins, so four players will share the jackpot. The jackpot is divided by five because five winning parts were sold. Since I paid $2, or bought two parts, I'll take $4 while the other three players will each take $2. It's more complicated than the random-name-draw jackpot, but another option for those that want to determine their own fate.

    Juleps for everyone: A nice tradition associated with the Kentucky Derby is the mint julep, so you must include juleps at your Derby party! Churchill Downs uses the pre-mixed Early Times Mint Julep that can be found in most liquor stores for $14.99. Pick up a few bottles to bring the taste of Derby home to your party. As a nice party favor, you might serve your guests the traditional julep in the collectible Kentucky Derby glass (which can be bought at most Kroger stores for $3.99). Not everyone will want to drink a large mint julep, but do enjoy the taste of it once a year (like egg nog!). You may want to serve juleps in small cups or shot glasses to all your guests just before the Derby runs and toast to a good race.

    Food, food, and food: Whether you're catering your event, cooking the meal yourself, or having a potluck, in order to keep a large crowd happy throughout a long day, you'll need to provide plenty of food. Unless you plan to have a sit-down meal, you may want to incorporate foods that can remain at room temperature or simmer in a slow-cooker. Another option is to set out the food at designated times throughout the day. Most importantly, a Derby party without a Derby pie is just a party. Kern's Kitchen has the trademark on the Derby pie, but most groceries and bakeries make their own version of the chocolaty treat. If you want to make your own, a quick Google search will yield millions of results, but please note--a Derby pie includes walnuts not pecans. I found a recipe at that is most similar to the recipe I use, which is always a hit at our parties.

    In all, a Derby party can be a lot of fun with a little planning and a few unique touches.

    Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby

    hat is most similar to the recipe I use.

    In all, a Derby party can be a lot of fun with a little planning and a few unique touches.


    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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