Behind the Scenes with Fox 13’s Chief Meteorologist Joey Sulipeck
There's a lot going on behind that bowtie!
Joey with his wife, Lisa
Ask weatherman Joey Sulipeck his favorite Memphis attraction and he’ll quickly tell you, hands down: Graceland. Despite its international popularity, Elvis’ home in Memphis tends to get overlooked by locals, with its inspirational story of a young man full of dreams, who (like a certain pop star from Millington), grows up to become a rock-and-roll legend. It’s a story Sulipeck enjoys telling, because he’s seen first-hand the draw Elvis still has today.
Sulipeck’s ease on stage has led to his own bit of fame as a popular TV personality and long-time emcee for Elvis Presley Enterprises. As master of ceremonies at the 2012 Memphis Ultimate Elvis Finals, he even wowed the crowd by crooning an impromptu version of If I Can Dream. He sounded great.
Turns out there’s a lot going on behind that bowtie.
The weather challenge
Sulipeck’s been with WHBQ-TV, Memphis’ Fox affiliate, for more than a decade and has won two Emmys for his broadcasts. An ardent Tiger fan, Sulipeck is homegrown talent, a graduate of Raleigh Egypt High School, the University of Memphis (with a degree in journalism), and post-graduate studies through Mississippi State University. He earned his certification with the National Weather Association.
But he’s best known for his ubiquitous bowties. It was during his time at Channel 24 with weatherman Brian Teigland that Sulipeck first settled on wearing a bowtie. He thought it would make him look distinctive, memorable. As for forecasting the weather, it proved to be just the kind of challenge he enjoys. “It’s never boring. It’s fluid and unpredictable,” he says. And it plays to his strength of thinking well on his feet, and speaking extemporaneously.
When he’s not scanning radars at work, Sulipeck enjoys spending time at home with his wife, Lisa, and their three children. Now that he’s switched to mornings (his work day starts at 3 a.m.), Sulipeck gets to more fully savor the daily rhythm of family life. Theirs is a busy household. The couple’s children, Milo (12), Chloe (14), and Roman (9), enjoy playing sports and hanging out with friends. With 17 neighbor kids in their cove, the Sulipeck home is frequently teeming with activity. Yet when they bought their Germantown home seven years ago, it was far from the cozy place it is today.
“Since it was a foreclosure, it took us two weeks just to clean out all the junk,” says Lisa. The couple did much of the renovation work themselves. It was the epitome of teamwork, proof-positive that with dedication, something discarded can be eventually transformed into a thing of beauty. That’s one of many lessons the couple works to share with their children.
In this high-tech era, Sulipeck believes parents must be more present because, “The world is eager to raise my kids,” observes Sulipeck. “Television, media, the online world, they’re all wanting to dump stuff into their heads.”
That’s why he and Lisa are intentional about instilling Biblical values that will give their children a sense of “true north.” That means earning money for what they want and remembering that computer time or cell phone use are privileges and not rights. He also encourages his kids to assess a situation before rushing to judgment.
“Kids are paying attention. They watch our body language, our facial expressions, and they begin to pay it forward,” he says.
Though both his parents (and grandparents) were involved in his life, their divorce left his mother to hold the family together. He credits her with much of his parenting insights. Sulipeck hopes his kids will discover their own passions in time, just as he and Lisa have. She loves to paint and decorate; one corner of the den is where she paints and many changes to their home came from her ideas.
Strengthening kids with knowledge
Sulipeck enjoys educating viewers. In fact, the idea for Fox13’s Weather Camp for Kids came about in response to letters Joey received from moms whose children were frightened by storms. He wanted to help them be less fearful and thought education was the key. Thus, weather camp was born. Now, the National Weather Service, FedEx, the Memphis Health Department, and the local Homeland Security office donate their time each year to teach kids all about the weather. Much to Sulipeck’s surprise, more than 1,200 kids turned out with their parents that first year and its been a success ever since.
But perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised. Sulipeck’s calm, authoritative style, his wit, and his knowledge make him accessible and trustworthy. He takes his job as a meteorologist seriously, knowing that when viewers tune in, it’s his responsibility to see them through dangerous conditions. He believes that with knowledge comes strength. That’s one lesson he hopes he can pass on to his viewers — and to his kids.
Before getting into TV news, Sulipeck did a variety of other jobs, including spending a summer working at an Alaskan cannery after college. “It was a crash course on making it on your own,” he says. • To learn more, go to Sulipeck’s blog, Joey Untied on myfoxmemphis.com
Fox 13’s Weather Camp for Kids
Saturday, August 2, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Agricenter.
Exhibits include flying a FedEx plane, doing hands-on experiments, and being a weathercaster on TV. Admission is free. Register online at myfoxmemphis.com.