Kate Levenstien is passionate about creating big, bold, one-of-a-kind experiences.
In 2013, she took her background in events (having worked at LivingSocial and for Oprah at Harpo Productions) to the world of food and drink, launching the event management agency Cannonball Productions.
Cannonball’s signature food and beverage festivals are the nationally-touring Bacon and Beer Classic and Taco Takeover, which is a taco and tequila fest. Her company’s been so successful, that in addition to bringing together a dedicated team of foodies and adventurers who live for delicious, heart-stopping fun, she was also able to get her parents to come out of retirement to work for her as her director of marketing (mom) and CFO (dad).
Her Bacon and Beer Classic events sell out in more than 10 cities including New York, Chicago, Seattle, Santa Clara, Denver and Minneapolis. We recently spoke to Levenstien about creating memorable experiences and the keys to running a successful event.
Talk to us a bit about your background in the industry.
Right after I graduated from college, I got a job at The Oprah Winfrey Show with the booking and production team for its last two seasons. Once that show ended, I made my way over to LivingSocial, where I managed its live-entertainment team. LivingSocial shortly pulled the plug on its live-events team, and I was out of a job. When I was looking for work, there was really nothing that stood out to me. I had ideas that I had just pitched to LivingSocial that were never completed, so I really had a level of interest in seeing those through. A couple of companies wanted to bring me on full time, but I reversed it and brought them on as clients and started my own company. Losing my job could have been awful, but I saw it as an opportunity. It was perfect timing, and work and life just matched up.
Tell us about Cannonball Productions.
We produce large-scale food and beverage festivals in stadiums and epic venues around the country. From the Bacon and Beer Classic to Taco Takeover, we specialize in pairing innovative cuisine with memorable experiences. I’ve always been passionate about bringing people together and getting them out of their normal routine to try new eats, new drinks and new experiences. I launched Cannonball Productions as a way to do just that.
Tell us about the Bacon and Beer Classic.
The Bacon and Beer Classic is a massive nationally-touring food and drink festival that brings more than 100 different types of craft beer and more than 50 original bacon-infused dishes to each market we travel to. I used to host bacon and beer pairing dinners at my apartment because who doesn’t love bacon and beer? Then it clicked that there were probably lots of people who would appreciate the combination. Now, it’s one of the fastest growing food and beverage festivals in the country, drawing sold-out crowds year after year in cities like New York, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Twin Cities and Scottsdale.
Talk to us about the characteristics that make for a successful and memorable experience.
Our festivals draw thousands of attendees who are attracted to the experience for different reasons. At any Bacon and Beer Classic, for example, the crowd might include die-hard sports fans, beer connoisseurs, foodies, bacon lovers, couples, groups of friends—the list goes on and on. Because of the diversity of our audience, we work hard to produce events that offer something for everyone. Outside of the food and drink sampling, guests are able to play games, compete in the Hormel bacon eating contest, talk with homebrewers, run the bases on the field and sample dishes from famous television chefs. We also sell a range of ticket types, from General Admission to Power Hour to VIP, to match everyone’s preferences.
In addition to the variety of activity on site, our all-inclusive model means that attendees never have to think about pulling out their wallets. From the minute our guests walk through the main gate and are handed one of our signature tasting cups, they have access to unlimited sampling on site. This fosters a more intimate relationship between attendees and vendors, who mingle with guests and share the inspiration for the dishes and beers they serve.
What events you are most proud of and why?
The Bacon and Beer Classic is pretty hard to beat, but my favorite event ever was our Lions, Tigers and Brews festival at the Central Park Zoo. Throwing a craft beer festival inside of a zoo is always logistically challenging, but it was also an amazingly fun time.