Kentucky Derby Traditions You Need to Know

Posted by Jaclyn Harris on Mon, Aug 11, 2014 @ 12:20 PM

The Kentucky Derby boasts a plethora of traditions! From activities specific to the crowd to items specific to the horses, it may seem the Kentucky Derby has too many customs to keep track of, but that's what makes this race's culture so unique.

The atmosphere at the Kentucky Derby is different than all other horse races, apart from maybe the other Triple Crown races, and it's important that if you are planning to attend in the future that you are aware of the race's traditions so you can take in the full Derby experience.

Here are the customs you will most definitely see at Churchill Downs on Derby day, so take note so you can participate!

The Garland of Roses

Roses were so popular with the ladies at the original Louisville Derby Party that the president of Churchill Downs, Col. Lewis Clark, established the rose as the official flower of the Derby. Then, in 1896, the winner was awarded with the garland of roses, thus beginning the tradition, and now a garland of roses is immediately associated with the Kentucky Derby.

The Mint Julep The Mint Julep  

The official drink of the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep has been associated with the race for over a century. Using fresh mint and good 'ole Kentucky whiskey, more than 120,000 of these traditional beverages are served throughout the Derby weekend.

"My Old Kentucky Home"

This will certainly raise the hair on your arms! As the horses step onto the track, the music begins and all that can be heard is the fans singing the lyrics in unison. With the excitement already built for the race, there is nothing quite as moving.

See the video of fans singing "My Old Kentucky Home" at the 2014 Kentucky Derby>>

The Oaks Lily

This tradition may have only started in 2006, but the Oaks Lily drink has caught on quickly! Served only on Kentucky Oaks day, the day prior to the running of the Kentucky Derby, the Oaks Lily is a combination of a cosmo and Grey Goose vodka. It's so sweet when it hits your lips!

Hats on Hats on HatsHats on Hats on Hats

If you're attending the Kentucky Derby, you will wear a hat! Pageantry is a very important element of the Kentucky Derby, and year after year women return wearing the largest, most fantastic hats they can find! 

From frills to bows to ribbons, the hats become more elegant and extreme each year, but it's just another one of the traditions that will never leave this race! And boy, we would never want it to!

Attend the 2015 Kentucky Derby!

Now that you're aware of the most popular traditions of the Kentucky Derby, it's time for you to attend! The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled at Churchill Downs on May 1-2, and it's calling your name louder than ever!

With Official Ticket Packages through Derby Experiences, you can get VIP access throughout Derby weekend. You'll receive access to an in-track hospitality venue complete with premium open or cash bars, complimentary gourmet fare, interactive entertainment elements, celebrity and jockey meet-and-greets, and so much more! 

sunnys halo lounge

You can even opt to include transportation to and from track on race days and luxurious accommodations in Louisville in your package. Additionally, Derby Experiences offers a plethora of concierge services such as official Kentucky Derby party invites, paddock tours, backstretch tours, and dining reservations to name a few. It's the only way to get the full Kentucky Derby experience!

Call 1-888-384-7088 to speak to a knowledgeable representative or visit Derby Experiences website for more information. The Kentucky Derby is waiting for you! It's time to check it off your bucket list!


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Topics: Kentucky Derby

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Kristen Doolan

Kristen Doolan was born and raised a Florida State Seminole. Making her way from Florida to North Carolina, Kristen achieved her B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing at The University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is an avid traveler, college football addict, beach bum and loves spending time with her family and friends. 


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Jazzy Morgan is originally from London, England and a die-hard Manchester United Fan. She grew up in Connecticut and made the move down south in 2011 where she attended Winthrop University and received her B.S. in Family & Consumer Sciences and a minor in Marketing. Jazzy enjoys traveling, working out, reading her monthly Vogue & Cosmo and keeping up with fashion trends.


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Evan Chronis was born in Omaha, Nebraska but has made his home in south Charlotte for almost two decades. A Tar Heel born and bred, Evan received his B.A in Media and Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is an avid Boston sports fan thanks to his family’s New England roots, and a fanboy of Wes Anderson films.