CEBRONICA LUFT, FOUNDER/PARTNER, THE PAVILION AT PAN AM
Cebronica Luft is a 39-year-old Indiana transplant who’s been shaking up the city’s event industry for more than 15 years now. Whether you recognize the name or not, it’s likely that you’ve attended an event Luft has helped bring to life: Rooftop Thursdays, INDYpendence Day Concert for Cancer, and Downtown Indy Inc.’s New Year’s Eve on Georgia Street, just to name a few.
In 2012, Luft branched off and founded her own full-service event and entertainment management company, titled 317 Events. It was also the same year she had the opportunity to play a part in one of the city’s biggest events: Super Bowl XLVII. She helped transform what was then the World Skating Academy into a four-day event leading up to the big game.
“I brokered a deal between StubHub and the World Skating Academy. Being a part of that transformation, seeing the end result, it really struck a fire under me,” she says. “If it ever became available, I wanted to do what I could to secure it in any way.”
As luck would have it, two years later the World Skating Academy moved out of the facility and the venue became available. Together with two business partners, Luft converted the ice-skating rink into a hub for concerts, weddings, food festivals, and more in 2015. Today, that venue is known as The Pavilion at Pan Am. Although the Pavilion takes up most of her time these days, Luft squeezes in a few 317 Events when she can.
“It’s my baby!” Luft says. “It’s something that I started with and definitely want to keep going.”
We caught up with Luft and got the details on how the event planning industry has changed in light of COVID-19, how to plan an event on a budget, and what it was like growing up as a military brat.
How are you able to stay organized balancing all these events?
I think the common thing is, when you’re passionate about something, it doesn’t really feel like work. So, for me, creating events and working on behalf of the brands that come into the venue, it’s really just a passion of mine. So, I don’t feel the pressure that most people feel when they’re doing events, because it’s just something that I look forward to. I’ve been doing it my entire career as well. So, there are not many situations that I haven’t encountered or haven’t seen. I’ve done events for 10 people up to 45,000 people.
How has event planning changed in light of the pandemic?
The change has been dramatic. I would say for the event industry itself, including my company, the restrictions have guided the trajectory of where everything is going. So right now, it’s just a matter of working within the restrictions that we have, being creative, and figuring out a way to operate on a safer and smarter scale until we can get back to a pre-COVID flexibility and pre-COVID reality.
What’s your favorite event that you’ve ever planned?
Izod’s Race to the Party Hollywood. We were challenged and hired by Izod to shut down Hollywood Boulevard for an all-day event celebration of the “stars and cars of the IZOD IndyCar Series.” The event featured a concert, pit stop competition, exhibit of vintage cars from the Indianapolis 500, a Drift car exhibition, and appearances from Mark Wahlberg and Diddy. One of the most challenging events to pull off as we were initially told that they only allowed Hollywood Boulevard closures for movie premieres. But we pulled it off!
What’s your advice for planning an event on a budget?
My advice for throwing any event is to know your audience. Their preferences should dictate every decision you make.
What are you looking forward to most in 2021?
I’m looking forward to getting a bit back to normal for events to start happening again. Events are extremely powerful when you think about how they bring people together and the experiences you’re creating for other people. So, I’m hoping that this year just brings us back to a little bit of normalcy to where we can be with our friends and family a lot more than we were last year.
What are some of your favorite local businesses to support?
For me, I love to support the local music industry as much as possible, whether it’s local DJs or local bands, local comedians, our event promoters, concert promoters. I get the biggest joy watching local artists and giving them a platform to showcase their talents.
What do you love about Indianapolis?
I love that Indy has the feel and amenities of a big city but the sense of community of a small town.
What’s something people might not know about you?
My father was in the military, so I spent most of my formative years in Japan. I was there for eight years of my life and graduated high school overseas.
Who’s a woman you admire and look up to?
I look at all the women in my family as my biggest inspirations—and that would include my mom, my grandmother, and all my aunts. I say that because every single one of them, whether they were married or single, they were all independent, had careers, very well-traveled. They ensured that me and my siblings and my cousins were well-traveled, as well as educated as kids.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Two pieces of advice I hold pretty closely is to be a lifelong learner and to not be afraid to fail. Risk drives innovation and opportunity.
How do you unwind after a busy day or week?
Staying in with my family and watching a movie.
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.