Everything You Need to Know About the Portland Derby

The Kentucky Derby is so much more than just a horse race
The Kentucky Derby is so much more than just a horse race | © Roderick Eime / Flickr

You don’t need to be in Louisville to have a fancy party.

The 144th annual Kentucky Derby is just around the corner, and though there’s nothing like being at the historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY to place a bet on your favorite horse while sipping a mint julep and sporting an extravagant hat, it’s not easy for everyone to just casually make a trip to Louisville. Especially from the West Coast.

If you’re in Portland, you don’t have to worry about booking expensive travel and accommodation to have a fancy party, because the Portland Derby brings the fancy party to you. Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s festivities.

When is the Portland Derby?

The Kentucky Derby will be held on May 5, 2018, and, consequently, so will the Portland Derby. The party begins at 10 a.m. and goes until 6 p.m. The race should begin around 3.30 p.m, so sip those juleps slowly if you plan on making this an all-day affair.

Where is the Portland Derby?

The 14th annual Portland Derby is being hosted at Leftbank Annex. The Northeast event space used to be a machine shop for WWII airplane parts, but now it’s just a cool, sleek industrial space perfect for throwing parties. It may not be the dusty grounds of a racetrack, but knowing Portland it’ll probably be raining anyway, and you wouldn’t want to get your Sunday (er, Saturday) best all muddy.

How much does it cost?

General admission tickets cost $45 and include complimentary brunch (for the first 300 people who arrive before noon), cornhole games, premium door prizes, prizes for best dressed, cigar girls, a raffle, horse auction, the race viewing, a DJ and dancefloor, and a complimentary coat check.

Where is my money going?

This year’s Portland Derby proceeds will benefit two great causes: Oregon Active Foundation (ORA) and Harper’s Playground. ORA is a non-profit dedicated to providing adventure therapy to those affected by life-challenging conditions, while Harper’s Playground strives to build innovative playgrounds for people of all abilities.

How should you dress for the Portland Derby?

Derby attire is mandatory. Ladies, if you’ve always wanted to wear a big, colorful hat, now is your chance. Sun dresses and seersucker are encouraged, but southern comfort style is a must. You will be turned away if you’re not dressed accordingly.

What’s the itinerary?

Complimentary brunch will be served until noon, thanks to Pearl Catering, and food items will be available for purchase throughout the day. Raffle and best dressed winners will be announced at 2 p.m., at 2.15 p.m. the horse auction begins, then it’s race time at 3.21 p.m., and by 3.30 p.m. patrons can show off their best dance moves in their best outfits as the viewing party turns into a dance party.

What are they serving?

Brunch includes scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage, biscuits and gravy, and fresh fruit. This year’s liquor sponsors are Maker’s Mark and Hornitos (it is Cinco de Mayo, after all) to mix up mint juleps and margaritas. If you’re a champagne drinker, there will be flutes and mimosas served, and for those who would prefer beer or non-sparkling wine, Widmer Bros and Darkhorse winery will be serving libations as well. Just remember to bring cash to purchase drink tickets!

How do I get to the Portland Derby?

Though there are parking garages nearby, if you’re going to be imbibing, it’s best to have alternate means of transportation. Luckily, the Leftbank Annex is conveniently located next to a MAX line. Or, there is always Uber, Lyft, and cabs to get you home safely, big hat and all.

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