Okay, so I'll be the first to admit, this blog post is at least three days too late to be useful--but you can start planning early for next year.
You can throw a superb Super Bowl party
or watch the Indy 500 all day or have folks over for game 7 of the World Series, but the Kentucky Derby is like all the excitement of those events focused into a laser beam. They call it the fastest two minutes in sports for a reason--and that reason is not a misunderstanding of how time works. Because of that, a Derby party is quick and easy and therefore less expensive.
As an added bonus--unless you live near Kentucky--you are likely the only one of your friends having a party that weekend.
Unlike the Super Bowl, or any of the other big sporting events, the Derby only lasts about two minutes. Sure there are three hours of lead up, in which all the experts tell you about the horses, trainers, owners, and jockeys. Then they need to talk about Churchill Downs, mint juleps, hats, Southern belles and gentlemen and traditions. There will also be highlights of other races from the past, but they are unimportant. In the end, the horses are all in their starting gates and the race is run between 6:30 (Eastern time) and 6:35pm.
Then the experts try to pretend that they knew all along, despite their earlier inaccurate predictions, who was the winner.
When you throw a Super Bowl party chances are you'll be competing for your friends when the invite appears in the in box. Plus, for people who don't follow football, the game is usually not as interesting as the commercials and the half time show (wardrobe malfunction or not
). On top of that the game tends to last all day long, and who has the attention span for that? Heaven help you if it actually turns into a close game, then you end up having to pay attention to the game instead of socializing, eating, drinking and catching up with friends.
The World Series, the NBA and NHL playoffs, and the Daytona and Indy 500 races are even worse.
No, the Derby is where its at. Invite your friends over the first weekend in May and chances are they're going to show up. Few people follow the month-to-month happenings among 2 and 3 year-old thoroughbreds, so everyone has the same level of interest in the race. Pick a favorite (I have a system based on the stupidest name
) or don't, the two minutes of actual racing are thrilling.
Everyone gets together and hangs out for a few hours, but when those trumpets blow and BAM! the gate opens and for two minutes all attention is on the track (or TV
). Everyone cheers and screams and claps, and then it's back to the party. The concentrated nature of the event helps you save money, since people will naturally start thinking of leaving once the race has run, instead of staying until they are stuffed, drunk or tired.
The genteel Southern traditions of the Derby lends itself to a nice spring get-together on a Saturday afternoon in Spring as well. Many people equate Spring with Easter and getting dolled up in their new spring clothes and finest bonnet, but what if you aren't a regular church-goer?
Well, have you seen the hats at the Derby?
To get as much pomp and pageantry as Churchill Downs on Derby Day you'd have to have a Royal wedding
every spring. So make sure to tell your invitees to wear their finest springtime fashion and don't forget a bonnet, or a hat for the gentlemen.
The menu is easy: For years now the event has been sponsored by Yum Brands. Who's that? you ask. Why the corporate parent of KFC
, Taco Bell
, A & W, Long John Silver's
and Pizza Hut
. You can go for the kitsch and get take out from those fast food places, make your own fried chicken, or pick up a bunch of frozen fried chicken. Cut up some Pizza Hut pizzas into small pieces for an easy hors d'oeuvres, or do the same thing with frozen pizza. Or make a southern soul food BBQ or--for the genteel crowd--cucumber sandwiches.
No one is really going to care about the food anyway, once they have a few mint juleps. They're very similar to Mojitos with no lime--and bourbon instead of rum.
Here's the recipe:
2 ½ oz bourbon
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp water
4 fresh mint leaves
Muddle mint water and sugar in a collins glass. Fill with ice. Pour bourbon over top. Garnish with mint. Stir and serve.
Enjoy, but be careful. Remember what can happen after only "One Mint Julep
"! Even though it's too late to celebrate this year's Derby, there's still the Preakness on May 21st and the Belmont Stakes on June 11th. I'll see you at the races.