One of the many signs of spring in the South is the Kentucky Derby and Iroquois Steeplechase. For some local residents, the tradition runs long to attend one or both of the events. The Kentucky Derby takes place May 4 and Steeplechase is May 11. Even if you don’t plan to attend, you can still host a Derby watch party. Here’s your guide to Steeplechase and Derby from what to wear, essentials, and what to drink.
1Drink- Mint Julep
The Mint Julep has been the signature drink at the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. Each year, there are 120,000 mint juleps served.
If you’re making it at home, the recipe is simple:
Muddle 3 sprigs of mint
1 teaspoon of water
1 teaspoon of granulated sugar in a cup
Pour in 2 ounces of bourbon
Fill a separate glass with ice and pour strained mixture over it. Garnish with mint and sprinkle powdered sugar on top.
Steeplechase serves mint juleps and since Jack Daniels is made in Tennessee, you will find more Jack Daniels based drinks as well.
2Ladies: It’s All about the Hat
For both the Kentucky Derby and Steeplechase, it’s all about the hat. Christine A. Moore Millinery is the official milliner for both races and offers custom hats to create your look. In the last few years, fascinators have also made an appearance. But if you are looking for relief from the sun, a traditional hat is the way to go. For those looking for a more budget-friendly option, you can purchase a hat and adorn it with spring flowers or a custom bow.
Fashion tip: if you are wearing a large eye-catching hat, keep your outfit simple. Bright colors and your best spring outfit is what’s on display, from dresses to skirts, and even a few jumpsuits will be found. Keep in mind that you will be using a port-a-potty all day so longer dresses and jumpsuits may not be ideal. You will be walking quite a distance throughout the day, comfortable footwear is a must. Heels don’t work well on sloped terrain and grassy areas, we suggest flats or wedges.
Men bring out bright colored pants and patterned jackets. Instead of the traditional tie, you will find mostly bow ties and keeping with the day, they will have a horse motif. Bird Dog Bay Ties and Bowties, found at Franklin Horse Supply, in silk are essential for a day out at the races. Fun, playful patterns with an equestrian flair!
4Essentials to Bring
Steeplechase allows tailgating and you are allowed to bring your own alcohol and food. Keep in mind, no glass containers are allowed on site at Steeplechase. No pets, propane grills, fireworks, banners, buses, or inflatables.
Kentucky Derby doesn’t allow any alcoholic beverages or outside food. Box lunches are acceptable in clear containers but no larger than 18×18. All handbags must be smaller than 12 inches in any dimension. Bring plenty of cash for placing bets and purchasing items. See the entire list of prohibited items here.
Essentials to have- a hat for sun protection throughout the day, sunscreen, sunglasses, and your ID. Don’t forget your tickets and parking passes. Pro tip – bring a change of shoes. If it rains earlier in the day, you may want to wear rain boots but as the day progresses, you will want to change into flip-flops or sandals.
5Hosting a Party
Whether you are hosting a tailgating party or a watch party at home, here are tips on hosting the best party. Select a color theme with items you currently own. Add-in horse themed items like napkins, like the ones above found at Franklin Horse Supply. Or if you previously rode horses, use your helmet as part of your tablescape. Add color to your tablescape with flowers. You can purchase flowers at the grocery store, farmers market or Amelia’s Flowers at The Factory.
Use food items as decorations. Create a large focal point with a bowl of green apples or lemons that you will use for garnish in your drink. Have a signature drink for your party but offer other drink option as well. For a hot spring day, fresh squeezed lemonade is refreshing and a party pleaser.
Don’t fret about making lots of food. Offer several items of finger foods like cheese and crackers, fruit trays, mozzarella balls with cherry tomatoes, and mini sandwiches. Your guests will be busy socializing and heavy food items are more difficult to eat.