Jan. 12, 2016
What’s the best surprise anyone’s ever given you? Any mystery packages under the Christmas tree this year? Over the years, Aikens has been a part of some big-time Christmas surprises. It’s been fun to help several people secretly arrange a trip to Aikens for a spouse or the entire family and then hear about how they surprised their relatives on Christmas Day with news of the upcoming trip.
“It’s a pretty cool idea when you think about it, because one of the things we do at Aikens is take care of all the logistics and the details for you, so all you have to do is show up and have fun,” Pit said. “Whoever receives the trip doesn’t have to pack a thing besides their clothes, and the person who gave them the trip knows everything will be taken care of first-class.”
Debbie Nutter, of Elizabeth, Colorado, surprised her husband and father on Christmas (2014) by telling them she had purchased the duo a trip to Aikens Lake––their first ever Canada fishing adventure.
“My husband and my dad had always talked about going to Canada or Alaska, so when I got the idea to give them this gift I did about six months of research on the internet,” Debbie said, noting she carefully checks TripAdvisor for any potential trip and was impressed by Aikens’ stellar reviews. “Once I talked with Pit, I was sold. I liked the all-inclusive package, too, so they had everything provided for them.”
On Christmas, Debbie gave her dad, Brian, and husband, Ed, a tackle box ornament and a fishing moose ornament to drop some subtle clues, then finally presented them with a brochure.
“It was really a surprise to them,” Debbie recalled. “When they opened the brochures they said, ‘OK, what exactly is this?’ They were so excited, and they just had a wonderful time at Aikens.”
The duo came last summer and excelled in their Canadian fishing debut catching over 100 fish in one day. They were also a big hit with the Aikens staff.
“It was a great bonding experience for them,” said Debbie. “They enjoyed their dream trip, and I don’t think it will be their last time to Aikens.”
Sherri Martin, of Cordova, Illinois, surprised her family with a trip to Aikens at Christmas of 2009. “To tell them, I did a play on the Night Before Christmas,” Sherri recalled. “I wrote a verse for each of them to read, and I had them open their cards in a certain order to gradually reveal what the trip was.”
Sherry had an Aikens calendar on-hand to show her husband, two sons and 12-year-old grandson (Taylor) about the lodge. “They were excited because it was a fly-in,” Sherry said. “Our trip was terrific, and my grandson loved every minute of it.”
“We caught tons of fish, of course, but we also saw quite a bit of wildlife. We also saw the hieroglyphics on the rocks and Taylor was very interested in that,” Sherry recalls. “He liked playing pool at night, and the guides were all so friendly and inclusive toward him.”
The entire Martin clan enjoys fishing, so Sherry had researched a variety of potential lodges before discovering Aikens.
“I wanted to go somewhere where it would be relaxing for me, too, so I wouldn’t have to worry about cleaning or the dishes. Aikens fit the bill perfectly because everything is taken care of for you from coffee in the morning to drinks at night. It’s so completely focused on the guests, and whatever guests want, they do.”
Sherry could tell her family wanted to come back, so she surprised them again at Christmas two years later with news that she had arranged a return trip to Aikens the following summer.
“Patrick made up a certificate and put the North Pole on the envelope he sent so I’d have something fun to give them at Christmas,” Sherry said. “The second time they were even more excited with the surprise gift because they loved Aikens the first time so now they knew what a special place it was.”
The second time around Tyler caught a 29-inch Master Angler walleye to make The Century Club (with an impressive 103" total), and the entire gang had a ball.
The Stanley Cup playoffs were going on during their visit, so the Martins (Blackhawk fans) enjoyed talking hockey and following the games with Pit and the rest of the hockey-loving Aikens gang. The entire Aikens experience surprised the family during their first visit, and delighted them again on their return trip.
“Each year we go somewhere as a family,” Sherry said. “We’ve been to Disney, Hawaii and many other places. We usually try to go somewhere new each time, but Aikens was one of the best trips we’ve ever had.”