The Kentucky Derby was this past Saturday, so as an excuse to dress up and wear fun hats, I made this my monthly dinner theme. We had a lot of fun dressing up and eating some of the favorites of the Kentucky Derby.
Invite: I made a simple invite on PhotoShop for the party. I didn't decide the theme until the Thursday before the party, so I didn't have time to make anything extravagant. If I had more time, I may have made horseshoes with the invitation details or a ticket to Churchill Downs for the event.
Entry Decor: My family attended the cutest cowgirl themed birthday party for our friend Abby a couple weeks ago, and these adorable stick ponies were the party favor! The hostess' mother made them all, and they are absolutely amazing! I wanted to incorporate them into the party, so I placed a colored piece of felt over their noses like race horses and gave them numbers. I found a pallet near the trash at a local restaurant and grabbed it to use as the starting gate. With a little grey paint, it did the job! The "Get Down Get Derby" sign hung on the entry door. It is just foam board, card stock, and marker.
Here's some more close up photos of the horses (I realized too late that I put the numbers on the wrong side, so guests really couldn't see them as they walked toward the door...oops!)
Activity: As guests entered, they placed their bets at the betting table. I asked each guest to bring $2, and since the race happened on Saturday, I wanted to make sure even if someone knew the results, it wouldn't influence the winnings. For this reason, I had guests draw a name for the horse they would be betting on. I had DVR'd the race, so we watched it in between dinner and dessert. I wanted to use the same terminology (Win, Place, Show) as the actual Kentucky Derby, so I divided the money based on this. For example, to "show" means to place first, second, or third -- so the guests who drew the top 3 finishers names each got $2. The first and second "place" finishers got an additional $3, and the winner got an additional $4 on top of that.
Inside Decor: My beverage table I called the "Watering Trough" to play up the horse theme. I served the traditional Mint Julep as well as wine. The Mint Julep was VERY strong without the mound of ice to dilute it a bit...so beware if you are making these!
I served my mint juleps in mason jars (I didn't have the silver cups the recipe calls for). I made simple tags for the straws as well.
The wine charms I made to look like Kentucky Derby hats using felt, scrapbook flowers, ribbon, and small feathers.
Table Decor: I used a brown tablecloth and bought turf from Home Depot to make a table runner. I checked GoodWill stores for trophies, but couldn't find one, so on a long shot (excuse the horse pun!) I called a local trophy company to see if they would allow me to rent one...they said yes! Isn't it perfect?
The Kentucky Derby is called the Run for the Roses, so I had to have some of red roses. (It was also a good excuse to buy myself flowers!) The horses I bought at a Dollar Tree.
I made medals out of crepe paper streamers and card stock to use as place cards. The paper is just fan folded and taped to the back of the card stock.
I found these cute trophies 4 in a pack at the Dollar Store. I used them as napkin rings.
Menu: I ran out of time to create a cute menu display, but I served items all well-known at the Kentucky Derby. I began with a green salad with candied walnuts, feta, and strawberries. The strawberries were sliced into roses to symbolize the Run for the Roses.
The main dish was Kentucky Hot Browns with Pimento Cheese Mornay. Instead of making it in individual cast-iron pans like this recipe, a 9x13 baking dish was used. This made it more like a casserole to dish up. It was very tasty. I served brown sugar glazed carrots with it.
For dessert, I made a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. This was well-liked by many of the guests, but a bit too strong on the bourbon in my opinion. It was overpowering some of the other flavors.
As an added dessert, I made chocolate horse suckers. When I wrapped them in clear bags it was hard to see them, so I placed them in a small medal bucket with brown sugar to hold them up.
Favor: As a take-home gift, I gave each guest potted mint leaves to make future Mint Juleps. The tag read, "It MINT so much to have you here!" If you decide to give something like this, keep in mind that it can get expensive with pots, soil, and mint leaves. Luckily a family friend from church has a garden with mint. She let me steal enough for these favors, so I only had to purchase the pots. (Thank you Connie!)
This was a super fun party, and I would totally recommend hosting a party like this before a horse race. I think all my friends had fun "trotting in" dressed up with big hats!