Interview by Martin Palicki
ABOVE PHOTO: Tori and Joe Fox celebrate their wedding on November 19, 2017, a scant 36 hours after the IAAPA Attractions Expo wrapped up in Orlando. Congratulations! Photos courtesy Joe Fox
One of two recipients of this year’s Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award, presented by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) to recognize outstanding volunteers within their organization, Joe Fox has been a familiar face behind the scenes at TEA events, lending his can-do attitude, acumen and capable hands to ensure the technology supports what is happening on the stage.
Why/how did you get involved with TEA?
I joined the TEA at the advice of Steve Alcorn while participating in his Imagineering class. I wanted to find a path into the industry, and the TEA and IAAPA were both put forth as good steps toward that. I started volunteering as part of the team assisting with the TEA presence at the 2012 IAAPA expo, and have been volunteering ever since.
What is your job when you’re not helping out TEA?
I started out as a project engineer at Birket Engineering and am now one of the engineering managers for Birket’s Florida office. I manage an extremely talented team of engineers doing show control, ride control, embedded hardware and software and much, much more. Basically, if it involves electrons, we’re in!
What are you really doing behind the scenes during SATE or the TEA Summit?
That would be giving away the secret sauce! I serve as a liaison between the technology and the presenters at the events, such as the TEA Summit and TEA SATE conference, to make sure that the brilliant ideas and awesome presentations that participants have poured their hearts and minds into get onto the screen and come out of the speakers’ microphones – and, from there, into the hearts and minds of the audience. I make sure the technology stays in the background where it belongs and the people, stories and ideas get the limelight they deserve.
How do you select interlude music? Do you take requests?
I have an extremely eclectic music library, introduced to me by friends and family over the years. I absolutely do take requests – the Doogie Howser theme during SATE 2017 was for Garrick Hansen and Greg Senner. The text messages I get for some of the selections make my day.
Who inspires you?
People who live their passion, and who work hard to make things around them better. It often only takes a small, incremental improvement happening on a frequent-enough basis to make substantial change. Like a river carving a canyon, continuous small changes lead to BIG change – the only thing that’s left is to determine the trajectory. Second star to the right!
If you weren’t working in this industry, what would you be doing?
I came into this industry from 10+ years in the education industry, and that’s one of my other big passions. I’d love to develop an idea I have about an educational platform that truly equalizes education for all at some point!
What do you find most valuable about TEA?
The TEA is all about people. It’s right there in the mission statement: “Representing the creators…” It’s not about the product. It’s not about the financial results. It’s not even all about the story. It’s about the people who help bring all that cool stuff to life. Those connections, those friendships – that’s the stuff TEA is made of, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about it.
If you could have any piece of tech equipment in the world at your disposal, what would it be?
JUST ONE?! MacBook Pro, iPhone, Bose QC35 headphones, AirPods – they’re never more than a few feet away. My phone is the other half of my brain. And a Christie Boxer projector is nice to have, too. •
To send Joe congratulations, or to make a song request for an upcoming TEA event, send a note to joe.fox@birket. com, and remember “requests with stories get first play.”