Sally Dark Rides is proud of our talented team. Many have been working with us for years—some even for decades! One of those dedicated team members is Donna Gentry, Vice President of Projects. Donna has been part of the Sally team for nearly 40 years. We recently interviewed Donna to learn more about her background, expertise, and interests.
A Georgia native, she graduated summa cum laude from LaGrange College with her bachelor’s in art. She also holds an MBA, with honors, in international relations from the University of North Florida.
In 1983, Donna left her first job in marketing and graphic design to pursue a position in the art department at Sally. She recalls seeing the Sally animatronic displayed at a trade show when she realized how thrilling it would be to work in the attractions industry. A lifelong artist and thrill seeker with a love for travel, it seemed like the perfect fit.
Over nearly four decades of work, that initial spark never faded. “The thrill of working at Sally is what has kept me at Sally. It’s always a challenge, always something new,” Donna said.
During her time at Sally Dark Rides, Donna has traveled to over 20 countries in five different continents. The connections she has made with her family of colleagues and clients around the world is part of what’s kept her in the business for so many years.
Donna’s Role at Sally Dark Rides
In the beginning, Donna spent several years as an artist developing her skills in character design through painting, sculpting, costuming and figure finishing. Her eye for detail, passion for problem-solving, and effective communication skills, took Donna into various management positions including Art Supervisor and Production Manager.
Currently, Donna works as the Vice President of Projects and serves as Secretary for the company’s Board of Directors. The two positions allow her to exercise her problem solving skills and engage with Sally’s leadership team. Project management gives her the opportunity to be part of every ride development aspect; from brainstorming in the beginning all the way to ensuring customer satisfaction. Her passion for this role is what led her to pursue an MBA. Being able to pair her artistic skills with business strategy has proved to be a valuable asset in this unique role at Sally Dark Rides.
On a daily basis, Donna is responsible for ensuring her team of project managers operates efficiently and satisfactorily. She is also heavily involved in strategizing company policies and vision direction for the business side of the company. She uses her decades of experience to help her team spot potential challenges, optimize performance and deliver exceptional results for the client.
Donna’s experience developing dark rides around the world has provided many opportunities to travel and become fully immersed in foreign countries and cultures. She recalls some of her first major projects, Challenge of Tutankhamon in Wavre, Belgium, and the Labyrinth of the Minotaur in Benidorm, Spain, as being some of her most fulfilling life experiences.
Some of her favorite projects have been the Justice League dark rides. “Working on-location in places like Mexico and California, plus working closely with our clients at Six Flags to overcome unique challenges and deliver a world-class attraction, was a great honor”. She feels pride in Sally’s award-winning work with these rides, proving that the company can compete with the likes of Disney and Universal to create awe-inspiring experiences.
“I try my best to make the impossible happen. Bringing together many different types of people, working together smoothly, and solving problems that seem insurmountable. We like to say, ‘No problems, just solutions.’”
Donna is thankful for her work family at Sally Dark Rides. She is grateful to have a supportive work environment, and humble colleagues that are immensely talented and professionally unsurpassed.
Insights Into the Industry
Donna believes Sally Dark Rides stands out in the industry because of its ability to create memorable experiences and ensure customer satisfaction.
“We create memories. Every ride we make has a story behind it. It’s something that families and children can take with them after they leave the park.”
Donna believes that dark rides are a growing necessity in the amusement park industry. Amidst the pandemic, individuals across the world of all ages have become more familiar and comfortable with technology. Because of this, she predicts the desire for rides with technology such as augmented reality, special effects, audio and visual stimulation will continue to grow and increase ride entertainment.
Life Outside Sally
Donna seeks thrills in all areas of her life. When she’s not working, she can probably be found experiencing some new adventure like scuba diving, skydiving, powered parachuting, or rappelling. A vegetarian and self-described “health nut,” she prioritizes her well-being by staying active and eating well. To stay fit she loves to hike, shoot basketball, and do yoga. She is an avid learner and enjoys experiencing new discoveries.
Donna believes there is good to be found in everything she experiences. Even in the face of a global pandemic, she has remained positive by learning new technology and applying the latest methods of communicating remotely. She’s always seeking improvement within herself—just as she is always pursuing new solutions and success for her clients.