Kentucky Derby Traditions You Need to Know

Posted by Julie Skaff on December 11, 2019

Over the years, the Kentucky Derby® has evolved along with it's traditions! From activities, to outfits, to drinks, 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 unlike any other horse race. If you plan to attend the race at Churchill Downs®, it's important to be aware of the race's traditions so you can truly have a full Derby experience. 

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 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. Churchill Downs prepares to make all of these drinks by keeping over 10,000 bottles and 1,000 pounds of fresh mint in stock!

"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 like being there to feel the electricity in the atmosphere.

The Oaks Lily

This tradition may have only started in 2006, but the Oaks Lily drink has caught on quickly! The Finlandia® Oaks Lily® is a sweet cocktail that uses vodka and cranberry juice. It is a great alternative for those who don't love Mint Juleps!

Hats on Hats on Hats

Planning a fun outfit is one of the most exciting parts of a trip to the Kentucky Derby. Year after year, guests 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. It's an iconic tradition that will likely be around forever!

Attend the Kentucky Derby

Now that you're aware of the most popular Kentucky Derby traditions, it's time for you to experience it for yourself!

Official Ticket Packages from Derby Experiences include a 2-Day reserved seat, exclusive hospitality with premium food and bar and VIP access throughout Derby weekend! You can even opt to include transportation to and from the track on race days, along with luxurious local accommodations. 

The Kentucky Derby is waiting for you!


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