MY STOMPIN’ GROUNDS

New Stompin’ Tom Cen­tre was late singer’s own vi­sion.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIC MCCARTHY JOURNAL PI­O­NEER

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.

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En­ter­tain­ers JP Cormier and Dave Gun­ning pay trib­ute to the late Stompin’ Tom Con­nors dur­ing the of­fi­cial open­ing of the Stompin’ Tom Cen­tre.

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