The Kentucky Derby is one of the most iconic sporting events in the world. But it’s not just the race that has everyone planning their trips to Churchill Downs. It’s the traditions and pageantry that have captivated millions across the globe.
Catch these traditions live at the 2022 Kentucky Derby, which will air on Saturday, May 7 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available to stream live on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.
Related: How to watch the 2022 Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby is known for its colorful and flashy hats and fascinators. Make your own at home using an old hat or headband and whatever materials around the house inspire you, like NBC Sports’ DIY Paper Flower Fascinator.
If you’re pressed for time or creativity (hey, no judgement), there are also many options available online or in stores. The Spring 2022 line from Kentucky Derby 148 Featured Milliner Christine A. Moore Millinery includes an array of hats and fascinators in neutrals, reds, pinks and cool tones.
If you’re feeling posh and maybe a bit more adventurous, why not try replicating this year’s $1,000 Kentucky Derby Mint Julep, which is a nod to the connections between Kentucky and France (for example, both have towns named “Versailles,” but with completely different pronunciations).
The recipe, of course, contains mint and Kentucky bourbon, but also includes pomegranate, orange, lemon and a dash of honey from Versailles, France, if you happen to have some.
The Garland of Roses
After the race, the champion horse is given the iconic garland of roses in the winner’s circle, hence why the race is nicknamed “the Run for the Roses.”
In 1883, New York socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to the women at a party. Inspired by this gesture, Churchill Downs founder and president Meriwether Lewis Clark announced that roses were the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. In 1896, the tradition of draping a blanket of 554 red roses on the Kentucky Derby winner began.
Hot browns and other Kentucky Derby foods
When it comes to Kentucky Derby cuisine, it doesn’t get much better than the Kentucky Hot Brown. The hot brown is a product of the historic Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. In the 1920s, Chef Fred Schmidt was looking for a late-night delicacy for partying night owls and found it in this open-faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon and Mornay sauce.
You also can’t talk about Kentucky food without talking about its world-famous fried chicken. Thanks to Colonel Sanders and his roadside restaurant in Corbin, Ky., Fried chicken may be the most widespread, globally known export out of the Bluegrass State.
The winner’s circle
From 1875-1929, the Kentucky Derby winner would stand in a circled area on the racetrack drawn in chalk dust. It began to be known as the “winner’s circle.” From 1930-1937, organizers moved the trophy presentation from the track to an area adjoining the clubhouse. An electric odds board and presentation stands were added in 1938 and every winning Kentucky Derby horse since then has been led to the winner’s circle.
The winner’s circle is usually only reserved for winners of the Derby, but it has hosted a limited amount of weddings and even has ashes of prominent horse racing and breeding industry workers spread on the ground.
“My Old Kentucky Home”
After the Call to Post is the playing of the state song, “My Old Kentucky Home.” The tradition dates back to the 1920s and the University of Louisville marching band has been part of the performance almost every year.
The song, written by Stephen Foster in the 1850s, depicts slavery in the pre-Civil War South, and there have been renewed calls to re-examine the song’s place – on Derby Day and in American society at large – in recent years.
“Churchill Downs gives careful consideration to our traditions each year,” Churchill Downs vice president of communications Tonya Abeln said earlier this month. “For this year’s Kentucky Derby, we are welcoming the University of Louisville marching band and the accompanying U of L choir to perform the state song of Kentucky.”
Embrace the most important Kentucky Derby tradition and watch the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Full coverage is also available on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.