Derby Day is May 7th!
If you’re not attending the festivities at Churchill Downs or going to Chicagoland’s largest Kentucky Derby party at Arlington Park, consider hosting your own Derby Day Party.
Here are 3 tips to help make your “Day at the Races” celebration a sure winner:
Turn heads with hats
Encourage your guests to don hats for your Derby Day soiree by hosting a contest with prizes for the most outrageous or gorgeous ones. Ooh La La in Highland Park offers one-of-a-kind couture creations of handcrafted women’s hats designed by proprietress and milliner, Lisa Farrell.
For a vintage look, Redefind, located in historic downtown Barrington, has a great selection of millinery must-haves, dresses, pearls and gloves for your fashionable fete. Laura Knecht, owner of Redefind notes, “The Kentucky Derby is a long-standing fashion venue where ‘vintage glam’ captures the spirit of the day.”
You can also window shop for hats online at the Official Kentucky Derby Store.
Toast the day with tradition
Greet your guests with a refreshing Mint Julep, a winning concoction of fresh mint, sugar, water and bourbon, traditionally served over crushed ice in a silver cup. The word “julep” derives from the Persian word “julab”, which means rose water. With the Southern twist of Bourbon and mint, this “rose water” has become the tradition for over 100 years at the annual “Run for the Roses.”
Jon Wool, owner of Chicago’s Finesse Cuisine, suggests that you pre-chill the julep cups. According to Wool, “When you serve a Mint Julep, the cup or glass should be so cold there is a layer of frost on the outside of it.” He also recommends Sweet Iced Tea as a non-alcoholic choice.
Finesse’s traditional Derby Day menu includes the Hot Brown (an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich, smothered in a cheesy Béchamel sauce, and broiled until golden brown); Burgoo (a slow-cooked, thick stew full of meats and vegetables); and Derby Pie (a pecan pie made even more decadent by the addition of chocolate chips and bourbon).
For last minute, impromptu parties, Wool recommends simple menu items such as spice-roasted nuts and country ham with biscuits. For party favors, he suggests commemorative julep cups but also thinks that “red roses are a great way to send everyone home feeling like a winner.”
Make a difference
Consider hosting a Derby Party that will make a difference in your community. Ask guests to bring canned goods for the food bank or provide an exciting item for an auction to benefit a favorite charity.
Guests at the first annual Derby Day Party for Barrington Children’s Charities will have the chance to bid on 25% ownership of an up and coming Bay Colt race horse. Proceeds will help fund projects that benefit children in need and at risk in the local area.
Thomas and Darby Hills, John Paul Hills and Lauren Lisner recently founded this special non-profit organization. Darby invites you to “cheer on your favorite horse and support a great cause.” For tickets and details, visit their website.
Enjoy a delightful Derby Day and please send in your pictures, recipes, stories and tips about celebrating the 137th “Run for the Roses.”