Six fun ways to celebrate the Kentucky Derby this Saturday

11062131 966568173362542 4536560374891047657 N
Image courtesy of The Porch Restaurant and Bar

The 141st annual Kentucky Derby takes over Churchill Downs on May 2 and although local favorite California Chrome isn’t competing this year, we’ve rounded up six fun ways to saddle up for the country’s biggest equestrian showdown, from festive hat competitions to variations on the quintessential Derby drink, the mint julep.

Cal Expo
Race over to Cal Expo for its annual Derby Day bash, where you can participate in some friendly wagering with other Derby fans while enjoying the race at the event center’s newly remodeled club house, which just reopened last spring. The festivities include breakfast and lunch buffets serving gourmet dishes, such as carved tri-tip, roast turkey and gravy, Derby scrambled eggs and rice pilaf, as well as specialty drinks, including rum-based cocktails and bourbon-mixed mint juleps. $38. 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Cal Expo. 1600 Exposition Blvd. 263-3000.

Derby Day 2015: Hats On for the Kids
Get set to raise the hoof at this 4th annual charity event benefiting Lilliput Children Services, a local nonprofit committed to finding families for children in foster care systems. While catching the big race on the restaurant’s big screens, don your best millinery during the annual Ladies Hat Contest or listen to live jazz and fuel up with Southern cuisine like bourbon pork sliders, dry rubbed tri-tip with white cheddar, and deviled eggs with smoked Bledsoe bacon, all from the celebrated Mulvaney's B&L kitchen. Even if your favorite horse isn’t crowned a champion, you can still walk away feeling like a winner with raffle and door prizes, such as full cases of wine and private in-house wine tastings, as well as auction items like a private shopping experience with Sacramento personal stylist Debbie O’Hearn, and a hands-on, private cooking class for 12 with Good Eats founder and local foodie Paulette Bruce. $60. 1-5 p.m. Mulvaney’s B&L. 1215 19th St. 923-5444.

Firestone Public House
Prep for the big race with festive drinks, including mint juleps, Bellinis and bottomless mimosas. While cheering on your favorite horse on the restaurant’s 22 televisions, fill up on race-day dishes, including house-smoked pulled pork nachos slathered in guacamole, spicy ranch and pickled jalapenos, Firestone’s oversized and ridiculously tasty Bavarian pretzel served with pimento cheese and stone-ground mustard, and grilled Alaskan cod tacos topped with mango salsa. 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Firestone Public House. 1132 16th St. 446-0888.

The Porch Restaurant and Bar
This downtown Southern charmer will be serving up special Derby Day dishes, including Derby pecan pie, Kentucky burgoo soup (featuring a mix of beef, chicken, lamb and vegetables in a kitchen sink-type stew), and Cincinnati chili (ground beef chili over a plate of spaghetti noodles and melted cheese). Sip on festive juleps and other specialty drinks made from Kentucky bourbon and take part in the Best Dressed and Best Hat competitions. Plus, get into the festal spirit with live music performed by Sacramento-based jazz ensemble The Crescent Katz. 2-5 p.m. The Porch Restaurant and Bar. 1815 K St. 444-2423.

Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Strap on your dancing shoes and gallop on over to this Lincoln resort’s Derby Day reception hosted at the casino’s Illusions club and lounge. House DJs will provide the soundtrack to the festivities, while you nibble on resort-catered appetizers and sip complimentary drinks. If you can take your eyes off the pre-race pageantry—displayed on screens throughout the lounge—check out the casino’s hat contest, where three festive guests will walk away with cash prizes for Best In Show, Most Creative and Honorable Mention categories. $40. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thunder Valley Casino Resort. 1200 Athens Ave. Lincoln. 408-7777.

Xoso Kentucky Derby Pub Crawl
Turn that southern drawl into a downtown crawl at Xoso (pronounced ZOSO) Sport & Social League’s inaugural Kentucky Derby Pub Crawl inviting beerocrats to don their biggest hats and snazziest seersucker suits as they sip beer, cocktails and shooters from six downtown bars, including de Vere’s Irish Pub, the new University of Beer, Goldfield Trading Post and Kupros Craft House, each of which will serve its own designated Derby day drink and offer other drink deals to mark the occasion. $20 preregistration before May 2. $25 on May 2. 5-11p.m. 426-9676.

Related Links
Born to Run: A photo essay of the thoroughbred races at Cal Expo
A new exhibit about Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome to debut at the California Museum this summer
Party Pix: The Lasher Polo Classic raises money for the SPCA