MY STOMPIN’ GROUNDS
New Stompin’ Tom Centre was late singer’s own vision.
There was still the outdoor concert to go, but the president of Tignish Initiatives quietly summed up the Canada Day grand opening of the Stompin’ Tom Centre in Skinners Pond: “It will be a relaxing evening for me and for everyone,” Russell Gallant said.
The pressure was now off. Work on the new centre was completed in just the nick of time and the crowd came. There was actually a long queue to get in for the free programming and the official opening.
Up front for the celebration were several family members of the late Canadian country singing icon’s family, Stompin’ Tom Connors, the man who attended school in Skinners Pond and lived next door. Both the schoolhouse and the homestead are part of the Stompin’ Tom complex, with the new Stompin’ Grounds entertainment centre, gift shop, recording studio and dining venue plunked right in the middle.
The family arrived for their first tour Friday night. Asked if she was nervous about what they would think, Tignish Initiatives’ general manager, Anne Arsenault responded: “I felt pretty confident that we had pulled this off and they’d be pretty proud of what we managed to accomplish here.”
Tom Connors Jr. provided assurances she was right.
“It was kind of awe-inspiring to see that this is all because the old man loved his country so much and his fans are so passionate about him that the government was nice enough to spend a few good hard-earned tax dollars from the people on a centre like this in Skinners Pond,” he said.
“It’s going to be a place to help other people from Canada and around the world to come and learn something about their country and maybe learn a couple of Stompin’ Tom tunes at the same time.”
During the official opening he called three people forward to receive
a Connors family appreciation plaque on behalf of all the people who worked to see his father’s vision for the property to fruition, Arsenault, past chairman Floyd Keefe and former Egmont MP Gail Shea.
“Tom would be very proud, and I’m very proud to see that all this is here now,” Tom Jr. said during an interview.
“He wanted a reason for people to come a little bit further and see the part of the country where he grew up and helped him become the man that he became.”
But Tom Jr. points out the centre is not just about his father. “He has his corner here in the centre with some nice things for people to see, but the whole grounds and everything is more meant to help promote Canadian talent, help people to learn something about Canada,” he said.
“My dad was in his glory coming out here for the summer and getting to see everybody again and talking about all the old stories about being back on the farm,” Tom Jr. said. “He always felt at home here, and this was a place he loved to be.”
He acknowledged the entertainers who took to the stage during the afternoon program, many of whom had shared the stage with his father.
“It’s the followers in the old man’s footsteps now that have to take that torch and continue the tradition,” he said.
Entertainers JP Cormier and Dave Gunning pay tribute to the late Stompin’ Tom Connors during the official opening of the Stompin’ Tom Centre.