Sally Dark Rides is proud of their talented and dedicated team members. Ric Hostetter, Scenic Supervisor, has been creating the visual essence of a Sally dark ride for over 30 years. He does everything from painting large scale murals, sculpting characters, illustration and ride layout and design — every day is different. We recently spoke to Ric about his background, experience, and what he enjoys most about working at SDR.

An Early Start in the Visual Arts

Florida born and raised, Ric attended Terry Parker High School where half his day was the Commercial Arts Program. After high school, he attended Florida School of the Arts in Palatka where he majored in graphic design. His first gig out of school was with local newspaper, Florida Times-Union, as a graphic designer where he illustrated and created ads for almost everything from jewelry to grocery stores. 

When he decided to leave the Times-Union, he started a career as an art dealer and tried his hand at sales. But it was when his mom showed him an ad in the newspaper for Sally, he realized the sales business wasn’t for him and his career took a turn for the better.

An Asset from Day One

Ric was hired on the spot after he interviewed with the Sally Dark Rides team. It must have been his suit and tie get-up and stacked portfolio that set him apart. However, they started him at the sewing machine on his first day and it wasn’t exactly his forte. “I was there for a week and they fired me,” he said. But they called him back a week later to work at their other company division Exhibit Resources doing a project for Universal Studios. That was when his career really took off.

When he started sculpting and painting, it came natural to him. “I view it as an extension of illustration,” he said. His years of illustration and drawing classes were finally beginning to pay off.

His first few projects were thrilling. From working and installing Universal’s E.T. Adventure ride in Orlando and Los Angeles, to Zombie Paradise in Tokyo, his start at Sally was more than he could have ever dreamt. After the two month installation in Tokyo was complete, he got to spend a month doing what he loves most, surfing the beautiful waves of Bali. “That was the greatest adventure of my life,” he said.

In the day-to-day Ric works closely with Todd Gillrup, VP of Operations, to prioritize the projects at hand. You’ll find him rockin’ out to AC/DC in the back of the shop, painting, and having fun while getting the job done. 

An Explorer at Heart

One thing Ric enjoys most about the job is the opportunity to see the world while installing dark rides. He mentioned his exotic adventures in Australia, Thailand, Waikiki, and Sweden as some of the most memorable. During his time working on Justice League: Alien Invasion at Movie World in Australia, he got to experience the luxury of what’s been coined, “Surfer’s Paradise,” while staying at the SeaWorld resort right on the beach.

”I’ve been able to surf all over the world. Working and surfing, that’s the dream - and I’m living it,” he said.

While he marvels at the beauty of each new location, he enjoys getting to make new friends across the globe. Even when we don't speak the local language. We always find a way to communicate, get the job done and create solid friendships. 

Why Sally Dark Rides?

With over 40 years in the industry, Sally’s dark ride reputation goes unparalleled. More than anything, Sally is recognized for the quality of their work as well as commitment to getting the job done right and on time. “We build great relationships with our clients and are often invited to come back and create another attraction,” Ric said. He credits that to the camaraderie, communication, and exceptional teamwork.

“The people make it so special,” he said, “this place is just a big family.”

Having gone through some hard times together, they know how important it is to support each other. Ric also loves the nature of his job. “We’re painting, sculpting and illustrating all the time. The environment is laid back and the atmosphere is always fun. As long as you get your work done on time, you have the freedom to really enjoy what you do.,” he said. 

Thoughts of the Future

With the COVID-19 vaccine now available and travelers aching for a new adventure, Ric believes the dark rides industry is about to take off. “Over the next few years I see our industry exploding,” he said. Additionally, park owners and their guests are beginning to appreciate the temperature controlled indoor attractions as much as their outdoor thrill rides. “The large 3D sets messed with large scale video screens— that’s what’s hot right now. Plus, the whole family can enjoy the experience together.  What’s not to like?” he said. 

Outside of his job at Sally, he enjoys doing anything outdoors with his family and friends like fishing, camping, boating, and, of course, surfing. Soon, he’ll have more time to do all of that.

As Ric gets closer to retirement, he’s excited but also sad to think about leaving his dream job one day. “I already feel a spot in my heart that says ‘I’m really going to miss this place,’” he said. But there's still plenty of time for more attractions and travel ahead.