Women of Influence: Rebecca Wood

Rebecca Wood

A view from the top…
In 2019, Rebecca Wood was named president of Six Flags Great Escape Resort in  Lake George, New York. She started with Six Flags at that park in 2009 as director of public relations. 

Six Flags Great Escape opened in 1954, originally as Storyland USA. It includes a hotel, theme park as well as an outdoor and indoor water park.

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation is one of the world’s largest regional theme park companies and operators of water parks in North America, with $1.4 billion in revenue and 25 parks across the United States, Mexico and Canada. 

Accomplishments and affiliations…
Member International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), involved with IAAPA committees 
Awarded participation in IAAPA’s leadership program,  spending one week at the Harvard Business School, 2016
Board member of the Chamber of Commerce, United Way and YMCA

Wood sees simplicity in her industry
QUEENSBURY, N.Y. — Rebecca Wood remembers her first amusement park work experience very well. 

She was 15 years old and was helping a friend who had a catering job at Canobie Lake Park, Salem, New Hampshire. The park was located about four miles from Wood’s hometown of Windham, New Hampshire. 

“I was running with a pan of corn, tripped and fell into the corn,” she said. “I now have a huge respect for those working in those types of events. And no one lets me carry the corn.”

The irony is not lost on her that she is now resort president of Six Flags Great Escape Resort.

Wood had a traditional youth. Her father, James Valenti, was an optometrist, and her mother, Jean Valenti, was an executive director of the northeastern branch of the Internal Revenue Service. She grew up with two older brothers, Andy and Jeff Valenti. 

She still visited Canobie Lake Park after her disastrous corn dive as well as other amusement and theme parks, but it was for recreation. It would be almost a decade before she worked in a park setting again.

She played field hockey and basketball in high school, receiving a basketball scholarship to play Division I basketball at St. Bonaventure University in the city of the same name in New York state. 

She also had found a seasonal job at a local family entertainment center, Victorian Park Entertainment Center in Salem, New Hampshire. This center, which has since permanently closed, offered arcade games, ice cream and miniature golf. She worked summers during high school and college.

In 2004, she graduated from St. Bonaventure with a degree in public relations and communications.

After college graduation, Wood spent several years in various positions and companies, just trying to find her footing. She finally hit on a public relations job with a company that managed shopping malls. She really liked this position, but it wasn’t long that another opportunity knocked. 

A former colleague of hers saw a job posting for a director of public relations at The Great Escape and immediately thought of Wood. 

“He sent me the posting,” she said. “He said that when he read it, it just felt like it was perfect for me.”

She applied and got the job. And it did feel perfect for her. 

“I felt like I was home,” Wood said. “I think it was the people and the energy I felt.”

She spent five years as the director of public relations. Then she spent five more years as the director of communications. She was then promoted to resort president. 

She has loved every minute of it. 

“I think a lot of people under estimate how much passion and energy goes into this industry,” she said. “It is not only about how much we love our jobs but why we love what we do. We are providing fun for people. And, for me, it is as much about the team I work with as the guests that visit the resort.”

Wood feels she has drawn a lot of strength and work ethics from her mother. 

“My mom was a very hard working person,” she said. “She always told me that the value of a job is what you are learning in that job. Is it keeping you challenged? And the other thing is: Are you having fun?”

What has kept her at Six Flags Great Escape is how the resort and the company have become her family, literally and figuratively. 

“I ended up marrying a man who worked in the communications department,” she said. 

Her husband, Michael Wood, is now a communications consultant. 

She said Six Flags has been supportive in helping her to become a success. She has had many mentors along the way. Bonnie Weber, Six Flags senior vice president, park operations, was one of them. There have been others. There have been those that have inspired her to “branch out of the silo of public relations.”

You know, they say it takes village,” she said.

She does want to expand her responsibilities with Six Flags eventually. Her career is important to her as is her family. 

“When I married Michael Wood, I was blessed with three awesome stepchildren,” she said. “David is 18 years old and already in college. Marie is 15 years old and is a sophomore in high school. And Jake is 10 years old, a sixth grader. When he is older, we have said we would look into perhaps moving to another location.”

Wood said the most significant changes she has seen since she first started in the industry has been in the advancement of technology. 

“It has brought the industry a long ways, but there is still so much potential there,” she said. 

Wood feels she is seeing more women coming into the industry.
“Because we are one of Six Flags’ smaller properties, we sometimes can be a development park,” she said. “We can see people come into the industry and watch them grow into leaders. I love that. I hope that my role here will inspire others so they know they always have a seat at the table.”

And even though the COVID-19 pandemic, a factor for more than a year now, has created significant negative impacts to the industry, Wood said there has been a silver lining.

“And that is in safety,” she said. “Safety is who we are and I think people see that. Families still need to get away and they have been able to trust us as they do.” 

Woods said she feels the industry has given to her a family, people, passion and love. 

“I just hope that I will be able to give somebody else the same thing,” she said. “And I hope that people will see the simplicity of what we do. We are creating future leaders and future thrills.”

Pam Sherborne

This article appears in the  MARCH 2021 issue of Amusement Today.
View the entire issue for FREE with our digital edition!