Distinctively Nantucket: Nantucket Dreamland’s Joe Hale

Joe Hale is one of Nantucket’s larger than life personalities. For Joe, life after retirement is focused on growing the Nantucket Dreamland into a dynamic film and cultural center offering programming to a diverse audience and operating 365 days a year. While family and friends play a major role in Joe’s life – so does adventure travel that is, well, uncomfortable yet exciting. Here’s Joe:

What is your Nantucket story?

Years ago, Rob Benchley and I were working together in New Harmony, Indiana.  Rob kept talking about Nantucket and how important it was to his family.  Finally, Linda and I put our two little boys in the car and drove overnight to Hyannis.  Like many of us, the moment I stepped off the ferry it just felt right, and I knew we’d find a way to return.   And we’ve returned every year since.  And now, 40+ years later, I get to live here full-time!

When did you move to Nantucket full-time?

2016, when I took my job at The Dreamland.

As the founder and Chair of the Flying Pig Marathon, have you ever run a marathon and if so which was your favorite?

I have run 85 marathons.  I was trying for 100 but blew out my hip at the Dubai Marathon, so I retired from running marathons in 2007.  In 2005, I ran 7 marathons in 7 months on 7 continents and raised over $300,000 for a charity that was important to my family.  It’s hard to pick one favorite marathon, but those at the top of my list include Antarctica, Great Wall of China, Easter Island, Kilimanjaro, and of course, Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon since I worked hard to make it one of America’s top ten marathons.  *That effort has paid off as the Flying Pig Marathon was recently ranked as one of America’s top marathons, click here to read more.*

How did you get involved with The Dreamland and what is your role?

Ironically, in 2008 I tried to volunteer in the very early stages of The Dreamland project, but it didn’t work out.  In 2010, I created The Global BrightLight Foundation (GBF), which provides solar lights to off grid families in developing countries.  I spent 5 years growing GBF to become the largest organization of its kind in the world and then passed it on to my successor.  So in early 2016, I thought I’d spend a few months relaxing with my wife, Linda, in Florida before deciding what do to next.  As luck would have it, I got a call asking if I knew anyone who might be interested in the Executive Director’s job at The Dreamland.  I replied “Would you consider me?  May I apply?”  And now I find myself having the best time of my professional life working daily with the best staff with whom anyone could hope to work.

What is your favorite movie and how many movies have you seen at The Dreamland?

Ha!  We’re like the cobbler’s children who always wear the worst shoes!   We’re constantly working to provide varied programming that will appeal to Nantucketers – year-round and summer.  In addition to daily films (and we’re now open 365 days a year), we’ve created Dreamland Conversations, Dreamland Storytelling, Nantucket’s Got Talent!, The Dreamland Stage Company (with our incredible productions featuring Nantucket youth), Film for Thought, Live Broadcasts from New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, and London’s National Theatre (these offerings are FREE to students and seniors), and concerts featuring performers like Audra McDonald, The Vienna Boys Choir, and The Cape Symphony.  We also partner with over a dozen island not for profits on programming.  IF I had to pick a favorite film, it would be the Empire of the Sun, a Spielberg film.

What is your favorite Dreamland event(s)?

Without a doubt it’s our annual fundraiser – The Dreamland Believers Celebration which will be on Saturday, July 11th this summer.  It’s now legitimately called the best annual party on Nantucket – it puts the FUN in fundraiser!  A quick sell-out, this year we’re featuring a Frozen theme and have arranged for the two actresses currently starring on Broadway in Frozen to appear – Caissie Levy as Elsa and Patti Murin as Anna.  No boring speeches or auctions – just fun!  And last summer we introduced the first Silent Disco on Nantucket at our gala, which we’re bringing back by popular demand this July 11th.  Tickets will be on sale soon.

As an avid traveler, what is the move interesting place you have traveled to?

It’s usually the most recent place I’ve visited!  This past Thanksgiving Linda and I spent 10 days hiking in Patagonia, both in Chile and Argentina, which was spectacular.   Last year I traveled to Borneo, Myanmar, and Bhutan.  I must say that Bhutan really stands out.  They measure the national happiness quotient every 10 years, and the population always seems to be in a good mood.  You must be accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide, so you feel informed and connected to the local citizens and customs.  They only allow 60,000 tourists into the country annually, so it’s really unspoiled and astoundingly beautiful.  They didn’t have a paved road until the 1970s.  I highly recommend Bhutan!

What are your travel plans for this Winter?

My original travel plan for this winter was to take a train from Moscow to Tehran, passing through four of the “stans” on the way.  I was really looking forward to this adventure, which has now been canceled because of the political situation.  So I’ve revised my plans and now my winter travel focus is on West Africa, spending time in Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Ghana, Gabon, Gambia, and Namibia.