Sam Orlando Jr., Orlando’s Catering...

If people aren’t big fans of the traditional mint julep, just create a different signature drink and name it after the host, like a ‘Julie Julep,’ for instance.

Center the food around Southern cuisine. We’ve served items like ‘Kentucky’ fried chicken, okra-stuffed mushrooms, marmalade-glazed petite baby-back ribs, etc.

Fun, interactive Kentucky Derby activities can include video horse racing, animal races with little pigs, turtles or mice, or even guests racing each other on adult-sized tricycles or motorized toilets! Put foil-covered chocolate roses at each place setting, or make table centerpieces out of them. We’ve also used a rocking horse with a fl ower wreath around its neck as a buffet decoration.

Lisa Sabin, Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch...

You can offer some of the favorite drinks of the Kentucky Derby, including the Oaks Lily (official Kentucky Oaks drink for the day before the race), Mint Julep (official Derby drink), Twin Spires (Crown Royal and cola with a mint garnish), Bloody Mary and sweet tea.

Express your inner Southern belle, making hats a must for the ladies. A hat exchange before the party can ensure that no one’s seen in last year’s hat.

Male party-goers should don seersucker or khaki suits with colorful shirts and polka dot or diamond ties.

Don’t forget the desserts! Traditional Kentucky Derby treats include bourbon balls and Derby pie (chocolate bourbon pecan pie).