AMUSEMENT TODAY: Women of Influence, Sara Seay
January 26, 2021
Sara Seay, ICAE
Director of Sales & Marketing
A view from the top …
Sara Seay is the director of marketing and sales for Premier Rides, Inc., headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. Premier, founded in 1995, is a designer and supplier of cutting-edge attractions.
Seay has been with Premier for 16 years. She began her career in the amusement industry when she was 14 years old at Lagoon Park, Farmington, Utah.
Accomplishments and affiliations…
- Recipient of the NEAAPA Paragon Award for excellence in marketing
- IAAPA Certified Attractions Executive
- Rising Star, Living Classrooms Foundation
- Sponsor, Give Kids the World Foundation
- Member/Supporter of IAAPA, Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), Australian Amusement Leisure & Recreation Association (AALARA), China Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (CAAPA), Philippine Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (PhilAAPA), Malaysian Association of Amusement Theme Park & Family Attractions (MAATFA), Camara Argentine de Parques y Atracciones (Argentine Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions) (AAPA), New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (NEAAPA), Pennsylvania Amusement Parks & Attractions (PAPA), New Jersey Attractions Association (NJAA), California Attractions & Parks Association (CAPA), ASTM F24: Amusement Rides & Devices, AIMS International: Amusement Industry Manufacturers & Suppliers
Many paths led Seay to her home
Sara Seay has walked down many different paths. Some she chose. Some were chosen for her. Some were good, and some not so good. But each and every pathway taught her lessons of life and family and career.
“I feel they all brought me to where I am today,” Seay said.
Seay was born In Centerville, Utah, along with her brother who is 11 months older than she. Besides the town of her birth, she also lived in several other Utah cities, Bountiful, Salt Lake City and Farmington.
To say Seay was an overachiever is not a stretch. She studied hard. She made good grades. She graduated from high school early. She took college-level math and biology courses. She received college scholarships to the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and Utah State University, Logan.
She also, at the age of 14 years, started working at Lagoon, a family owned and operated amusement park in Farmington. She was working part time then. She couldn’t have guessed, at that time, she would start full-time employment there in three years, the beginning of a 10-year stint.
She had made plans for herself. She wanted to attend Utah State and wanted to major in mechanical engineering. She was on that track and felt positive about her decisions.
But at the age of 15 years, an event occurred which turned her world upside down. On a trip to Salt Lake City from Bountiful, her mother, brother and cousin were in a horrific car accident. This accident would forever change her life, her brother’s life and especially her mother’s life.
All three sustained significant injuries with her mother’s most damaging injury taking several weeks to show up. She ended up with an injury to her brain and lapsed into a coma. She awoke, but would never live at home again.
“She had to learn to speak again,” Seay said. “She lost most of her hearing. Her mobility wasn’t good. My world changed tremendously in an instant. Our roles reversed. I became my mom’s support. It changed everything.”
For one thing, Seay spent much of her spare time at the nursing home with her mom. She became her advocate and, as she could, she would take her mom out on special occasions.
It wasn’t always easy.
“I noticed how people would talk over mom to me because of her impaired speech,” Seay said. “I think that was why helping people with disabilities during my time at Lagoon was so important.
“Those experiences continue to motivate me to really listen to and work to communicate directly with clients around the globe, particularly when English is a second language and accents are thick.”
The accident also altered her decision for college. Instead of going to Utah State, she decided to stay close to home and attend the University of Utah.
And that accident could well have been the catalyst for her to change her college major from mechanical engineering to hospitality management. “I was sitting in class one day and I looked around me and thought, you know, this isn’t what I really want to do,” Seay said. “I was way too social.
“I felt I always had to work twice as hard to prove my worth,” she said. “I was the youngest in the class. I was a woman in a male-dominated field of study. At that moment, I chose another path. Still today, I face the challenge of being a woman in a man’s environment. With time I’ve learned to navigate it, to know my own worth and to find pathways to success.”
Seay was already working full time at Lagoon. She threw herself into her work. She grew into her job eventually holding the titles of manager of guest services as well as being a park director.
She loved her job. She loved her team. She learned from her general manager, who was at the time Clark Robinson. Robinson later left Lagoon to become president of IAAPA.
She also was good at her job. Part of that job included handling complaints. Her colleagues told her they had never seen anyone who could say “no” to someone and be thanked for it.
But, handling complaints for 10 years began to take a toll on her outlook. She applied for another position at the park that was set to come open. She got it, but, at the last moment, the person vacating the position had a change of mind and decided to stay.
“I was so excited about being able to move to another position,” she said.
Mentally, she was already in that other position. It was hard for her to go back. She decided to leave Lagoon, taking a job at Utah’s Hogle Zoo.
But, as so many people need to do to at some point in time, she took that leap of faith, which ended up propelling her to the east coast where she visited the offices of IAAPA in Arlington, Virginia.
She also visited her former general manager Robinson. She was looking for employment. Robinson pointed her to Premier Rides, which turned out to be another turning point in her life.
She found that she settled well into marketing at Premier. She also found her future husband, Jim Seay.
And, now, 16 years later with more than 25 years in the industry, she knows her home.
“I have made some wonderful friends all around the globe,” Seay said. “They are my family. I am grateful to travel all over the world to develop relationships, to meet with clients and visit their facilities and, of course, to sell Premier Rides attractions.”