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Industry Innovators 2023: Kate Levenstien

The CEO and founder of Cannonball Productions brings food and beverage festivals to unique venues around the country.

'As a food and beverage event company, we are almost required to stay ahead of the curve,' explains Levenstien. 'We are creating the next new immersive experience for people.'
"As a food and beverage event company, we are almost required to stay ahead of the curve," explains Levenstien. "We are creating the next new immersive experience for people."
Photo: Courtesy of Cannonball Productions

Kate LevenstienKate LevenstienPhoto: Courtesy of Cannonball ProductionsKate Levenstien is the CEO and founder of Cannonball Productions, based in New York. 

How she got her start: After working in booking for The Oprah Winfrey Show, Levenstien was recruited by LivingSocial Live Events to run its Chicago tours and festivals. "I was responsible for concept creation, sales, and event execution on top of hiring, training, and managing my team of about 60," she remembers. "I absolutely loved the work and the autonomy. We were running events every day of the week, and taking thousands of people on all types of adventures from whitewater rafting and sushi-making dinners to winery tours and 10,000-person beer festivals."

When LivingSocial shut down the division, Levenstien decided to take what she had learned and launch her own company, Cannonball Productions, when she was just 26 years old. Almost a decade later, "We are a nationally touring food and beverage festival production company that has hosted over 350,000 people at our events including the Bacon and Beer Classic, Seltzerland, and Taco Takeover," she says.

What innovation means to her: "As a food and beverage event company, we are almost required to stay ahead of the curve," explains Levenstien. "We are creating the next new immersive experience for people. The food and beverage world changes rapidly—new products, flavors, and alternatives are released almost every day. Our attendees are tastemakers and want to be the first to try the latest and greatest. And, we are living in a time of YOLO where people want to experience everything and share it on social media." Levenstien and her team produce the Bacon and Beer Classic, a nationally touring food and beverage festival hosted in sports stadiums across the country.Levenstien and her team produce the Bacon and Beer Classic, a nationally touring food and beverage festival hosted in sports stadiums across the country.Photo: Courtesy of Cannonball Productions

What sets her company apart: "Being a startup event agency means we have to think fast and pivot quickly, whether it’s an issue with deliveries, the weather, or a pandemic," she says. "We were able to creatively and responsibly host our festivals in the summer and fall of 2020 when almost all of our agency counterparts shut down or went virtual. This allowed us to scale to 25 markets in 2021 with a proof of concept. We can scale, market, and produce festivals quickly, and take them to cities across the country seamlessly." 

How she stays inspired: Levenstien mainly finds inspiration in the people around her—primarily her team. "We are an all-female team that has always viewed obstacles as opportunities," she says. "I also love attending other events, whether it's music festivals, expos, or pop-up street fairs. It’s great to see what others are doing from an attendee's point of view."

Levenstien also gets inspired by her one-year-old son. "To see how he plays and views the world is so outside the box of how we, as adults, are conditioned to think." Early in the pandemic, Levenstien and her team safely turned golf courses into festival venues for Seltzerland, which allowed attendees to sample hard seltzer brands safely while strolling fairways around the country—no putting required. See more: Learn How This Event Producer Turned Golf Courses Into Festival VenuesEarly in the pandemic, Levenstien and her team safely turned golf courses into festival venues for Seltzerland, which allowed attendees to sample hard seltzer brands safely while strolling fairways around the country—no putting required. See more: Learn How This Event Producer Turned Golf Courses Into Festival VenuesPhoto: Courtesy of Cannonball Productions

Career highlights: "After 100-plus festivals, it’s challenging to just pick one, but I was so proud of our team for hosting our two largest festivals on the same day: the Bacon and Beer Classic at Citi Field in New York and at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, where we hosted over 18,000 people at our events simultaneously," she recalls. "Our team divided and conquered and rooted each other on from afar."

Her favorite thing about the event industry: "I love taking a traditional space and turning it into something completely different for 24 hours. It can be challenging, but it allows us to be creative and innovative," Levenstien says, adding: "I also love the people I get to work with, from our team and sponsors to our venue partners and attendees. Everyone is really approachable, understanding, and fun-loving!"

This feature is sponsored by vFairs, your all-in-one event management platform for virtual, hybrid, and in-person events. Host epic events of all sizes using vFairs's event technology, including a customizable mobile app, virtual event platform, and on-site event tech.

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