Derby at Home: Celebrating a September Kentucky Derby in a pandemic

It’s not exactly Christmas in July, but the first Saturday of May will be in September this year.

Derby is normally a day when my social media feed is filled with photos of people at the track and my living room is filled with enthusiastic friends pretending to know anything about horse racing. There’s a full spread of Derby favorites that would make Martha Stewart proud in the dining area (including my nearly world-famous pimento cheese) and the bar is taken over by a make-your-own mint julep station with fruits, herbs, flavored syrups and, of course, Kentucky bourbon.

But this year, there will be no fans at the track and my party have to exist virtually. Don’t worry, though, we can still have fun and a Derby to remember.

Here are a few ways to add excitement to your Derby at Home:

1. Download Derby At-Home Kit activities. Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum have a number of fun DIY activities for kids and adults to celebrate Derby including directions to make a paper flower fascinator and create horse puppets.

2. Set the tone with some Kentucky tunes. Louisville Tourism put together a playlist of songs by Kentucky-born artists and about Kentucky.

3. Look to local restaurants for Derby-themed take-out specials. Small businesses across the Commonwealth are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic and many will offer your favorites (Benedictine, bourbon balls and beyond) for curbside and carryout.

4. Take the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Derby Burger Challenge. Each year the Derby Festival tasks Kentuckians to concoct the ultimate burger. This year’s winner is a savory and sweet, indulgent Bourbon Blackberry Glazed Bacon Cheeseburger.

5. Look like you’re there with virtual backgrounds. Set up a video chat through Zoom, Google Meet or other conferencing platforms to watch safely from home with friends. Just grab a photo from the track for your background and throw on a Derby hat before you log in.

6. Bourbon, duh. It’s not quite Derby Day without a mint julep in hand. Grab your favorite Kentucky bourbon, snag some late-summer mint and mix a cocktail.

Happy Derby!

— Rachel Nix

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