Break out your mint julep cups and don your most outlandish hat — it’s time to party Kentucky Derby-style.

Even though Churchill Downs is almost a thousand miles away, that doesn’t stop us Northerners from getting in on the festivities. A number of organizations and venues plan to host soirees Saturday that range from the casual to the over-the-top.

And while the Run for the Roses goes off at 6 p.m. and only lasts two minutes, the local parties start in the morning and go until late at night.

“It’s our biggest party of the year here at the downs,” said Susan Higgins, marketing director for Scarborough Downs. “We make a whole day of it.”

The doors open at 10 a.m., and many people show up that early to place their bets on the Kentucky Derby horses. During the past two years, $5 wagers placed at Scarborough Downs netted $30,000 in prize money.

Make sure to get a reservation in advance if you’d like a table in the dining room, which will open at 1 p.m. The Downs will offer a buffet lunch for $25.95.

At the bar, your mint julep is poured in this year’s official cup from Churchill Downs.

There’s a special 2 p.m. post time, which will be followed at 5 p.m. by the Belle of the Derby Hat Contest, with prizes for most creative and most elegant.

The fashions will be just as fabulous at the Junior League’s Derby Day Party at Fore Play Sports Pub in Portland. For a $10 cover charge, you’ll be treated to live bluegrass music from Fen, hors d’oeuvres from the Junior League’s cookbook and a 50/50 raffle. Here, the hats will be judged for best overall and silliest.

Of course, there will be mint juleps, but for those who aren’t fans of bourbon, a special juniortini will be offered as well. All the money raised at the event, which runs 4 to 8 p.m., will support the league’s efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity in Greater Portland.

Should you be in the mood for dinner with a derby flair, wear your hat and head to Charlie Beiggs in Windham, where the restaurant serves up a Southern-themed menu (in addition to the regular eats). As you might expect, mint juleps will be on special at the bar, and the Bellamy Jazz Band will perform from 5 to 8 p.m.

If you’re game for a more formal get together, pony up the cash for a $100 ticket to the Mad Hatter Affair at the Woodlands in Falmouth.

This fundraiser for the Maine Historical Society used to be known simply as the annual gala. But since it’s always been held on derby day, the organizers decided to embrace that connection.

“This year, we’re placing more emphasis on the derby,” said Elizabeth Nash, the society’s marketing and public relations manager.

Instead of the black-tie attire of year’s past, guests will wear derby-appropriate cocktail dresses and suits. Oh yes, and hats.

After a reception from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. featuring Cold River Vodka Mad Hatter martinis, guests will show off their headgear in a formal hat parade. Prizes will be given for best male, best female, most historical and most hysterical.

The party continues with dinner at 7 p.m., followed by a live auction and dancing to the Jim Ciampi Band.

Tickets to the party were almost sold out earlier this week, so be sure to act fast if you want to score one of the remaining seats. 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]


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