BANDBCLASSIC-FEATURE

Suds, Swine And Fun Times: A Q&A with Kate Levenstien, Founder, Bacon and Beer Classic

Thousands of kegs tapped. Over 50,000 bacon-infused dishes served. Countless smiles.

Yup, it must be the Bacon and Beer Classic.

And if you just missed the last two events, brew-hahas at New York’s Citi Field and Seattle’s Safeco Field, don’t worry. There’s more in store.

The Bacon and Beer Classics — which happen at professional baseball fields and football stadiums across the U.S. — are organized by 28-year-old event producer Kate Levenstien.

We’ve been told that Kate’s so successful with her events that she’s pulled her parents out of retirement to work for her company, Cannonball Productions.

Ah, the sweet smell of success… and beer… and bacon.

Without further ado…

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The NewsWhistle Q&A with Kate Levenstien, founder of the Bacon and Beer Classic

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Kate Levenstien

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What did you do before you were an event producer? 

As soon as I graduated from UW-Madison, I moved to Chicago and started working in the booking department at the Oprah Winfrey Show. Our department curated show ideas, worked with talent management, and produced the shows from beginning to end. Each show was an event in and of itself.

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Why did you become an event producer?

How does one become an event producer? I am really passionate about bringing people together and getting them out of their normal routine to try something new. Nothing makes me happier than creating those connections and providing people with new places, foods, and conversations to explore. The beauty is that anyone can become an event producer. If you have an idea that you think people will be interested in, all you need is a time and a place. I always think about what people are going to remember when they leave – the smell of bacon sizzling? the temporary tattoo sleeve up their forearm? the top chefs they met? their Instagram post on the Jumbotron? As long as you think creatively and execute seamlessly, it should be an unforgettable experience for the attendees.

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Other than the Bacon and Beer Classic, what was the greatest event you’ve thrown? 

The Bacon and Beer Classic is pretty hard to beat, but my favorite would have to be our Lions, Tigers and Brews festival at Central Park Zoo. Throwing a craft beer festival inside of a zoo is always logistically challenging but an amazingly fun time.

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How epic were your house parties in high school? 

How did you know?! I threw the majority of parties with live bands, sometimes a $5 cover charge, and kept it open to all of the groups and grades. I really enjoyed hosting and being in control of the different themes. There may or may not have been a baby pool of canola oil that killed a big patch of grass in my backyard…

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What’s your favorite movie? And why? 

Typically my favorite genre is documentaries, but I just love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Who doesn’t want to be Ferris and get away with the harmless pranks?! I could watch it 100 times in a row and not get sick of it. It’s all about not sweating the small stuff and living each day to the fullest.

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What’s the biggest risk you took in life?

Other than bungee jumping at the world’s 1st and 2nd highest points, the biggest risk was starting Cannonball and renting out two MLB stadiums without needing any funding. It was a huge risk and if we didn’t sell enough tickets, it could have been a disaster.

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If you could go back in time and do one thing over, what would that be?

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do anything over, but I would love to clone myself and see where the other version of myself would have ended up. I was backpacking in Southeast Asia after Oprah’s show ended, with the anticipation of moving to NYC when I returned. While I was in Vietnam, I was recruited by LivingSocial to run their Entertainment and Live Events division in Chicago. So I cut my trip short and ended up moving back to Chicago for 2.5 more years. I think if I had stayed abroad I might never have come back…

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Tell us your favorite joke: 

I’m more of a riddle person. Here’s my favorite riddle: A man runs into a bar and asks for a glass of water. The bartender pulls out a shotgun and yells at him. The man thanks the bartender, then walks out of the bar happily. Why? Answer: The man had the hiccups, and by scaring the man the bartender cured them.

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What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

I love cemeteries, especially old ones. I don’t see the morbidity in them–instead I think they’re extremely peaceful and filled with incredible history and stories. I try and visit cemeteries around the world, with my favorites being in New Orleans, London, Boston and my hometown in New Jersey.

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard? 

Don’t listen to other people’s advice. I’m kidding! The best piece of advice is to think big — it will take you a lot farther than following the status quo. Look in the mirror and see a lion rather than a cat.

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Tell us about the Bacon and Beer Classic.  How did it come about? 

The Bacon and Beer Classic is one of the fastest growing food and beverage festivals hosted in iconic sports stadiums across the country. This all-inclusive event features 30+ bacon dishes from local restaurants, 100+ craft beers from local and regional breweries, games, music, and more. The Classic has drawn sold-out crowds in over eight cities, including New York, Chicago, Seattle, and the Bay Area. It was ranked one of the top three 2016 beer festivals in Time Out, and has also been featured in Forbes, Edible Magazine, Thrillist, and more.

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How did it become so popular? Can you give us a little insight into your marketing strategy?

Our marketing strategy is constantly evolving and also shifts from city to city. We are committed to working with local media partners in every city to help spread the word on a grassroots level and build an authentic fan base across the country. Instagram and Facebook are also huge for us in terms of building our brand. We love sharing bacon-infused recipes and food porn with our followers.

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Is it true you got your parents out of retirement to help you with the festival? How did that happen? 

It’s true! Before retiring, they had founded a successful company with hundreds for employees and sold it after 25 years. When I told them I was thinking of starting my own company they were so excited by the idea and offered to help me get it up and running. I definitely wouldn’t have made it this far without their support. My dad still oversees legal and finance and my mom handles HR and national partnerships.

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What’s the best beer you’ve ever had? The best brand of bacon? 

Hormel’s Black Label Jalapeno bacon is always a fan favorite at our events and I have to say, it is incredibly delicious and flavorful. My favorite beer would have to be Kona Brewing’s Big Wave Golden Ale. I was just in Hawaii, where Kona is based, and I tried it there for the first time! Luckily I can find it in New York, too.

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What’s the best bacon dish on the planet? Can you provide the recipe or a link to it?

Ooh, my favorite bacon dish changes all the time because I am constantly trying new and inventive concoctions at our festivals, from bacon-wrapped Oreos to bacon chili mac and cheese! My favorite of the moment in Druthers Brewing Co.’s bacon banh mi with carrot-cucumber slaw and a deep-fried bun. It won Best Overall Dish at our New York Bacon and Beer Classic!

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Are there alternatives at the festival for people who don’t eat meat or pork products?

Every dish is bacon-infused! We do offer ciders and wine for non-beer drinkers.

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Who’s your favorite celebrity? And why?

I’m going to go with Leonardo DiCaprio. For one, look at him. But seriously, his genuine passion for his career and the environment are inspiring. He leverages his public persona to champion good causes by giving back his time and money and speaking up for those who do not have a voice.

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Images and Videos Courtesy of Cannonball Productions

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