If you’ve been to an event in Greenville, it’s likely that Brenda Luginbill had her hand in the production of it—especially if it was haute, not ho-hum. After working 60-80 hour workweeks for six years in Los Angeles, where Luginbill planned pop singer Christina Aguilera’s 2005 wedding, she and her husband knew a change was in order. They landed in Greenville 10 years ago, and the preternatural happy party planner is now the owner of CB Events and Industry Event Rentals—think weddings, Charleston Wine + Food parties, etc. But after 16 years of organizing other people’s events, Luginbill has finally created one of her own: the NESS Fest—a new health and lifestyle festival that aims to help others be the best version of themselves. Her method? Make it easy and accessible to try myriad modalities during two fun-filled, family-friendly days. Since she doesn’t run on caffeine, it must be her sunny outlook and megawatt smile that keep Luginbill powered up. Whatever it is, we want some.
What is the NESS Fest? >> NESS Fest is a two-day health and lifestyle festival October 20th and 21st on Fluor Field. We are taking over the entire field. CycleBar is shutting down for two days and bringing all their bikes onto the field. We’ve got four different fitness stages that you can sign up and take a different fitness class every 30 minutes, or every hour on the hour. The whole point of this is to get people out of their shell and try something new.
What’s behind the name? >> It’s called the NESS Fest because it is more than just about what we eat and how we work out. It’s about people becoming the best version of themselves. So that’s where we have our wellness, our goodness, our fitness, and our wholeness. It’s all about our “’nesses,” and if you can tackle those four pillars in your life, then you can really, truly start to become the best version of yourself.
You’re such a fixture here—but you had a whole life before in Los Angeles—including, of course, planning Christina Aguilera’s wedding. >> I worked for a company called Along Came Mary Productions, and my boss at the time, Michael Gapinski, came to me one day and said, “We’re going to go to this house, and I don’t want you to freak out.” We had done a ton of events for celebrities so it wasn’t really that, it was just that he knew in particular I had a heart and soul for Celine Dion, Josh Groban, and Christina Aguilera (laughs). It was crazy because we walked up to the door and she opened the door and I was like, you have got be kidding me. I remember just being so excited like, “Let’s do this!”
Did she say, “Hi, I’m Christina?” >> Yes, she was very nice, she was very polite. They were wonderful the entire journey. I remember one day sitting there working on their table seating chart and I was thinking, “Am I really sitting on this fur rug with her doing this? Is this happening? This is happening, okay, great.”
How did you get into event planning? >> It’s actually one of my favorite stories. We moved out to LA, and in L.A. when you don’t know what to do, you do catering. So we met a friend who got us hooked up with a catering company and started working there. I just was watching this one guy in the company, and I didn’t know him that well. I went up to him later on that evening and said, “I don’t know exactly what it is that you do, but that’s what I want to do, and how do I get there?” He called me a few months later to offer me a job as an assistant.
Love it. >> The journey was so fun and working with Michael was amazing. He’s still one of my best friends in the world. I mean, you want to talk about doing weddings—he did Barbra Streisand’s wedding. He did Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s wedding.
What is your way to find your “NESS”? >> I’m not very good at that. We kind of joke that I created this festival for myself. I wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t taking care of myself in all of those ways, so I’m like, well, what’s going to force me to do it? We’ll create a festival around it (laughs). But it’s been great because every day we meet people with these stories, and it’s all about connecting people who are on the same journey together so that they can encourage each other. And, if I’m super stressed or just feeling really anxious, I’ll just go home, get in the shower and sing five songs, and then I’m like (snaps her fingers), “Done! Check that box, I’m moving on.”