11 Ways to Celebrate the Kentucky Derby

Put on your big hat and celebrate the May 5th event at one of these local parties and benefits.
Derby hats

Wear big hats to a Derby Event. Photo by Jason Evans.

Two minutes. That’s it. People across the country dress up and wear big hats for an event that lasts just two minutes. For almost 150 years, visitors have gathered at Churchill Downs in Kentucky to sip mint juleps and cheer for horses and jockeys racing around a dirt track for a total of 120 seconds. It’s arguably the most exciting two minutes in all of sports. If you can’t make it down South for the Derby, there are plenty of local places that are celebrating the big event with parties and benefits where you can dress up as if you’re witnessing the race first hand.

  1. Our Heroes Fashion Show

Join the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Foundation for the annual “Our Heroes” Fashion Show held at the Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston. The night will start at 6 p.m. with a fashion show featuring the fanciest clothes from boutiques across the state worn by survivors and community heroes. The night includes live music and a cash bar. A sit-down meal and dessert will be provided to attendees. Support some amazing people by registering for this event for $56.50 per person.  And make sure you wear your biggest hat — there’s a prize for the best one.

Derby day art

Art by Liesl Long Chaintreuil

  1. Linden Place

Linden Place in Bristol is doing the Kentucky Derby Colt family-style this year. Filled with mint juleps, best dressed competitions, music, food, auctions and a viewing of the race taking place at Churchill Downs, this is the place to be on May 5. Proceeds from the event will go to the restoration and upkeep of the museum. Grab your tickets now and start putting together your outfit for the day! Tickets are $75 for non-members and the event takes place from 4 to 8 p.m.

  1. Big Night Out

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State is hosting this year’s Big Night Out on Derby Day, starting at 6 p.m., and the theme will be carried out throughout the night. One of Rhode Island’s biggest bands, Brass Attack, will perform while guests sample food and bid on incredible items. All the proceeds will help Big Brothers Big Sisters continue its efforts of providing youth with mentors throughout communities. Visit the website to purchase tickets for $175 per person.


  1. Providence G Pub

The race might be only two minutes long, but Providence G Pub will celebrate the event for hours (between 4 and 7 p.m., actually). The party, sponsored by Bulliet Bourbon and Angry Orchard Rose Cider, will include food, drinks and giveaways. Dust off your most outlandish hat and your most Derby-like garb and bring your competitive spirit. Throughout the night, there will be a Derby hat competition and best dressed competitions for ladies, gentlemen and couples.

  1. Hill and Harbor Cigar Lounge

Picture the perfect balance: a mint julep in one hand and a smoking cigar in the other. Spend the afternoon, starting at noon, lounging around with friends and derby-celebrators at the Hill and Harbour Cigar Lounge in East Greenwich. Get into to the derby spirit even more by wearing your big hat and try to win the contest.

  1. Rogue Island Local Kitchen and Bar

The mint julep, once a cure for an upset stomach, has been the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby since the race first began, and Rogue Island Local Kitchen and Bar will be pouring them on draft all day long at their Derby party from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and also from 4 to 11:30 p.m. Throughout the day, there will be best dressed contests and live music, and the restaurant will be giving away prizes such as moonshine mason jars and derby glasses from Town Branch Bourbon and pouring Two Roads Conntuckey Lightening ’18. The kitchen will be serving up a Derby-inspired menu to spice up the party.

  1. Star Kids Program Benefit

The Star Kids Scholarship Program is hosting its annual spring event on Derby Day. This organization helps at-risk kids throughout Rhode Island to be able to attend school and other educational programs. The race will be broadcast while guests can get down to some bluegrass music from 5 to 9 p.m. Not sure what to wear that night? They have you covered with their Pinterest page. Check out the website and purchase tickets for $150 apiece.

  1. Easterseals Kentucky Derby de Mayo fundraiser

May 5 is also Cinco de Mayo and the Easterseals are making sure they honor both celebrations in one event! The Easterseals’ mission is to provide equal opportunities to children with special needs or disabilities. At the Kentucky Derby de Mayo fundraiser from 5 to 9 p.m., they will combine the Derby with Mexican culture for $100 a ticket. The Derby will be shown on the big screen and guests can choose between mint juleps or margaritas. There will be live music and plenty of awesome things to bid on during the auctions. Put on your biggest derby hat and drink a margarita!

  1. Hotel Viking

Get all fancied up to spend between 2:30 and 8 p.m. at the one and only One Bellevue at the Hotel Viking in Newport. Derby-inspired food and cocktails, including the mint julep and Woodford bourbon neat, will be served throughout the day. You don’t want to miss this event or the chance to win a two-night stay at this prestigious hotel.

  1. Bar Louie

Bar Louie in Providence is kicking off the summer season with Derby Day. The restaurant and bar will be serving mint juleps from 11 a.m. until midnight for only $5.50 so bring your friends and get the party started.

Derby hats

Derby day fashion at the Fraid Knots Pan Mass Challenge party.

  1. Fraid Knots Pan Mass Challenge Team

The Fraid Knots Pan Mass Challenge Team is hopping off their bikes for a special fundraiser on Derby Day to support their cause of honoring cancer victims and survivors and helping find a cure. Back by popular demand, the annual fundraiser takes place at Hope and Main in Warren beginning at 5:30 p.m. The night includes a viewing of the races and getting your money’s worth at the buffet for only $65. Grab your tickets.



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