TEA Connect Blog

15 April 2016

"Quit counting the shrimp!" Monty Lunde remembers Peter Chernack

The real, personal relationship between me and Peter Chernack started in 1991 when I had the crazy notion of pulling our industry together into what became the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). Well, that lit a fire… in Peter, and in several other key professionals in our industry. Since I was the first president of the TEA and, at that time, truly deathly afraid of public speaking, I quickly appreciated Peter’s intellect and ability to articulate why the TEA existed and the benefits the freshly minted organization brought to our unique business community. It was all quite evangelical at the time and Peter was an incredible spokesperson. Bending the ear of any and all, Peter possessed the oration skills of the most experienced trial lawyer, salted with passion and a sincere desire to help Themed Entertainment professionals grow and flourish. -- Monty Lunde

Peter Chernack - 1948-2016

Monty Lunde, president of Technifex and founder of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), remembers Peter Chernack and shares his many contributions to the creation, growth and development of TEA. This article is adapted from Monty's remarks given at Peter’s funeral April 5, 2016. 

I knew Peter Chernack over 25 years. Our relationship grew from professionals working in a similar industry, to trusted friends, to soldiers in arms battling for a cause, to keepers of our industry’s history. Since most of my interactions with Peter centered around the formation and growth of the TEA, my comments about Peter have that theme (pun intended).

In the late 1980s my relationship with Peter was purely as professionals working in similar fields. I co-owned Technifex and Peter co-owned Metavision, and we both provided show systems to the entertainment and related industries. We crossed paths on a few projects and had a mutual respect for each other, but no significant connection.

I knew Peter as an exceptionally sharp professional with a remarkable gift of gab. As all of his friends and colleagues knew, he could be a bit long-winded when spun up on topics like storytelling, business ethics and the challenges of working in our industry.

To give you a feel for Peter’s volunteerism and his influence within TEA, his list of credits include becoming a member of, and eventually chairing, a Standards Committee that was formed shortly after the TEA was founded. This was a 5-year project that ultimately defined more than 60 industry disciplines and the process by which they work together to conceive, design, fabricate and assemble the largest and most complex entertainment projects in the world.  

In 1996 Peter was elected to the TEA International Board and in 1997 and ‘98 he was unanimously elected to be the President of the Association. In those days, the TEA was bootstrapping, so when you were elected President you also assumed all management responsibilities for the Association, including moving the TEA office into your business. Though the Board faced many mundane challenges due to a lack of paid staff, Peter always reminded us to “quit counting the shrimp” and think big about what the TEA could and should aspire to be.

Never a shrinking violet, Peter’s time as the TEA President was both challenging and rewarding. The Association was still battling with the owners and developers of major amusement parks for recognition and respect and Peter once expressed in an article about our industry’s annual trade show, “Some major developers approach the exhibit floor as a royal entourage might survey a plebian market place, seeking only bargain custom goods from those tradesmen anxious to bow and serve.” Peter was never one to mince words…

Feeling even more confident, Peter later wrote, “Today we do not seek permission from owners, developers and colleagues. We seek their agreement to work strategically as part of a team. We bring the experience, the ingenuity and the dedication to build dreams. Arrogance may at long last be going out of fashion!

In some ways I think Peter was channeling the rebellious ‘60s… but our perception of the industry at that time was one of battling for our livelihood.

After completing his term on the TEA International Board as Immediate Past President in 1999, Peter was active on various committees including Ways & Means, Education, Nominating, Thea Awards, and Strategic Planning. Each committee was dedicated to developing and defining the building blocks of a sustainable and professional organization.

Over the past five years, Peter chaired the TEA Past Presidents Committee. This esteemed group represents the lineage of TEA presidents and is tasked with looking 10 years into TEA’s future and conceiving long-range programs that will benefit the association and our industry. A recent success includes our TEA NextGen Initiative which focuses on bringing the next generation of theme designers and builders into the Themed Entertainment Industry.

Peter also spent the last three years helping me and our Past President associates outline a program that is now called “Masters of their Craft.” When launched, this program will be dedicated to providing long overdue recognition to the exceptionally gifted craftspeople working in our industry.

In addition to his efforts on the TEA Board and various committees, Peter made a point of attending the TEA’s annual, multiday planning retreats, wrote articles on behalf of the TEA and spoke at numerous shows and engagements about the virtues of membership in this unique organization. It was Peter’s passion for fairness, professional respect and unbridled willingness to commit everything to the success of the TEA that made him a cornerstone of this organization.

Though Peter never suffered fools, his sense of humor could be wickedly clever and creative. This was often evident, but one instance I will never forget was in the late 1990s while we were all in Brussels at the TiLE conference (Technology in Leisure & Entertainment). The European chapter of the TEA, mostly Brits at that time, had recently formed and we all decided to have dinner to celebrate being together.

We found a wonderful restaurant that could serve our group of Americans and UK counterparts… and of course there was wine… After many effusive toasts from Peter to everyone’s health and prosperity… there was more wine… At one point, the exceptionally talented, humorous and British Ray Hole (of Ray Hole Architects) made a comment about all the new forms of American entertainment with catchy names such as Edutainment and Infotainment. He then made the proclamation that the Brits were going to develop their own brand of entertainment in the UK… “Lootainment” …and then there was more wine… by the end of the evening Peter and others, through fits of laughter, had come up with several attractions only suitable for the Lootainment concept...complete with appropriate sponsors.

To this day, all we need to say to one another is “Lootainment” and it elicits chuckles and fond memories of that raucous and happy evening with our international peers.

It took several years for me to realize - and it was unspoken - but Peter had become a mentor to me, showing me how to lead, articulate with clarity and purpose, and how to truly respect and honor friends and colleagues.

Monty Lunde

As a person, Peter was always effusive with compliments and encouragement. He was the first to ask about your family, by name, and what they were doing. Peter always transmitted genuine warmth when he spoke on a personal level and you had the feeling he was completely focused on your concerns. He was the first to insist on taking the high road on all things that affected personal reputation, or the health of the TEA. He would remind us that we represent an industry that touches hundreds of millions of lives in many ways.

This last year, I drove Peter to our monthly Past Presidents breakfasts, at Bob’s Big Boy, because his sight was failing. These monthly breakfasts have been important to us because they keep us connected to those we respect, believe in and share a significant history with.

In the 15 minutes Peter and I drove alone we often talked about family and it was in those moments I realized there was something far more important to Peter than the TEA. Peter was extremely grateful for Rebecca’s loving support through life’s trials and tribulations, especially during his illness. When our kids were the topic, Peter would glow with pride when he talked about his daughters Michelle and Daniella and their progress as college students and young adults. He loved them dearly and knew they would be successful no matter what they chose to do in their personal and professional lives.

I personally believe the measure of a person’s success is not how much money they make, nor the possessions they accumulate. I believe it is the number of people they positively influence through the course of their life and the effort they put forth to push humanity forward. In this regard, Peter has made his mark forever…

As a tribute to Peter’s exceptional and unwavering support of the TEA and his industry colleagues, the Past Presidents will be submitting a request to the TEA International Board. We will request the name of the TEA Distinguished Service Award given at our annual Gala be permanently changed to the “TEA Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award,” forever memorializing Peter and his life of commitment, leadership and support of those who strive to make a difference.

Rest in peace my dear friend…


To see other stories shared by Peter's colleagues and friends since he passed away on April 3, 2016 - read more here.

Posted by Judith Rubin



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