Last updated: February 14. 2014 9:26AM - 1583 Views

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UNION — There’s no doubt that Team Aruba has made a name for their ‘One Happy Island’ among drag racing fans. Many racers, officials and fans have made Aruba their vacation spot, including famous names like Harold Martin. Now, a group of 35 folks from Union, S.C. are planning a trip of their own. And while they are sure to enjoy the beauties of the island paradise, their motive for venturing south is quite unique.


Bobby Hicks manages U.S. operations for Team Aruba and is spearheading the group’s trip. A man of strong faith, Hicks says the group is heading to Aruba for a Christian mission trip. The majority of the missioners are musicians and they’ll surely find it easy to sing songs of gratitude while on the island paradise.


This group trip is further evidence to the fact that Team Aruba is making their nation famous in the racing industry and beyond. While the team puts in many long hours of hard work during the racing season, it is during the off season that their work pays off as vacationers heed the lure of Team Aruba’s homeland. William Cavallo is one such visitor who has now decided to make Aruba a regular vacation spot:


“I have had the luxury of vacationing all over for free, due to trips we win. In my type of business [office equipment sales] we are compensated with free travel. I would have never picked Aruba without talking to the Eman family. As it turned out, we decided to go. We loved it so much we went back with my entire family a second time. The interesting part is for the first time in a few decades I had to pay for this trip. It was worth every penny and we are already planning our next trip back. If you want to know what we liked the most about Aruba, it is simple: the people. They were the nicest we have ever met. Can’t wait to go back!”


Friends of a former Team Aruba crew member have visited three times and by their word of mouth have brought many others to Aruba. Others who have enjoyed an Aruba vacation at the bidding of the Emans and Team Aruba include: World Champion racer Cary Goforth and Greg Brown, an Engine Builder at Jon Kaase Racing Engines, as well as fellow racer John Pluchino, whose entire team visited the island. Pluchino crew member Bill Madden loved the island paradise so much he bought timeshare in Aruba.


“Team Aruba is a very special group of people who treat fans and fellow racers like close friends,” told Pluchino. “From the first time my team met the Emans we became close friends, and they opened their entire racing operation to us, as they have with so many other teams. They promote the island of Aruba and are always ready to help get the best possible rates and fares for anyone that would like to travel to the beautiful island for a vacation. I know of so many people including my own family that have taken the advice of the Emans and have traveled to the island. All have enjoyed it immensely. Some have purchased timeshares and others have already booked a second and third trip to the island. My family and I are returning to the island the second week of April for another visit.”


“When my wife and I first met Trevor Eman and Team Aruba we noticed immediately how friendly and upbeat they were,” World Champion, John Montecalvo testified of the Arubans. “No matter if they won or lost they smiled and were just so grateful to be racing with us. You could always count on seeing lots of people surrounding the Team Aruba pit area, as Trevor and his crew were always mingling with the fans. They play fun music and give away bags filled with items that promote tourism for the Island of Aruba, as well as Autism awareness. It would make us smile to see the large palm trees in front of their trailer, even when it was cold outside!


“In 2012 my wife and I decided to plan a trip to Aruba for our fall vacation. This decision was pretty easy as the graphics on the Team Aruba trailer were very inviting, and whenever we asked Trevor what the weather was he always said, ‘It is perfect’. We were told it was called the ‘One Happy Island’ and Team Aruba certainly exuded that so we decided to give it a try. Trevor gave me the name of a travel agent that took care of all the details, and we only needed to wait for the date. Turned out we loved Aruba and all that it had to offer. Team Aruba was very influential to get us to visit Aruba, but the Island of Aruba convinced us to return a year later!”


Pro Stock racer Bob Bertsch had similar feelings on his trip to the one happy island: “Our visit there was very enjoyable for the family. The water and weather were absolutely fantastic and the beaches were not crowded. The Saturday night that I spent at the drag strip was very interesting as all of the competitors knew one another, and they were like family.”


Now, because of Team Aruba and crew member Bobby Hicks, a group of gospel singers will be making a trip to Aruba later this year. Five people from this group made a trip in October and now 30 others have decided to join them for a second trip back. The Riverside Boys and Carolina Christmas Band, as the entertainers are known, plan to work with a pastor in Aruba to put on a Vacation Bible School as well as entertain through their gospel performance.


Like many others, the Aruba Tourism Authority is taking notice of Team Aruba’s efforts. “We are all huge fans of Team Aruba, and love watching them spread the sunshine and cheer of the One Happy Island throughout the U.S,” told Sjeidy Feliciano, Senior PR and Corporate Communications Specialist for the Aruba Tourism Authority. “The last few years have seen tremendous growth in engagement of the ‘generations of the future,’ as we continue to maintain our notoriety among loyal visitors. With ambassadors like these guys, it’s no wonder the secret of our perfect island getaway has gotten out!”


While Aruba’s efforts on the track are receiving more and more recognition after their stellar 2013 performance, they are best at accomplishing what they originally set out to do: attract people to their island paradise home.

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