‘Tom’s all over this’
New Stompin’ Tom Centre was late singer’s own vision
Good things come to those who wait.
That seemed to be the reaction of everyone involved in the development of the Stompin’ Tom Centre, known now by its acronym “STC”, in Skinners Pond, a coastal community nine kilometres west of Tignish.
When plans for the centre were formalized in 2015, the target was to have a grand opening on Canada Day, 2016. Some of the anticipated funding, however, fell through and the project was sent back to the drawing board, delaying the opening a full year.
But Canada Day, 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary turned out to be even more fitting admits Anne Arsenault, general manager of Tignish Initiatives, the developer of the project.
“It’s such a significant date,” she said, noting Stompin’ Tom Connors’ strong sense of Canadian pride.
Canada’s 150th also coincides with the 50th anniversary of Tom Connors becoming known by the Stompin’ Tom nickname, his son, Tom Jr., pointed out in his remarks delivered in the West Prince community over the long, Canada Day weekend.
“He met everyone, and everyone was so humble and downto-earth, and he became that type of person because of all the families who lived here at that time,” he said of his father’s deep connection to Skinners Pond.
Arsenault points out the Stompin’ Tom Centre is far more than a static museum.
“We created a lot of opportunities here,” she said, pointing out it is the programming that will keep the place alive.
Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey prefaced his remarks by acknowledging the former MP for the riding, Gail Shea, for the work she put into the project concept and development. His acknowledgement of Anne Arsenault’s work on the file drew a standing ovation.
“We are a very caring society, a society that embraces people, and that’s what Tom Connors stood for,” Morrissey said. “If you listen to his music, Tom didn’t conform to the American ways and Tom, more than anybody else, identifies Canada; he signifies what Canada is all about, and, through this facility I trust that his legacy will carry forward for many years.”
Entertainer JP Cormier said there was no way he was missing the opening.
“I know all about this place from Tom, about how he struggled here for many years, decades, trying to get this to happen,” he said.
He’s confident Stompin’ Tom would have given his stamp of approval.
“It’s amazing; he’d be really pleased,” he said. “As soon as I walked in here I was like, ‘yeah, Tom’s all over this. It’s just what he would want.’”
He started off his tribute piece with House of Plywood, a song he wrote about Stompin’ Tom.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan also reflected on Stompin’ Tom’s foresight.
“Really, the vision behind it was that this was going to touch people just the way that Tom did himself, and it would bring people and it would put Skinners Pond on the map and put Prince Edward Island on the map, and it would draw people to West Prince.”
Stompin’ Tom’s longtime fiddler, Billy MacInnis, started off his set with his tribute piece, The Reel Stompin’ Tom.
Karen MacLean from Summerside, wearing a Stompin’ Tom pin she made for the occasion, arrived two hours before the doors open to snag herself a front row seat. “It was worth it, because I wanted to get in to see it all,” said the Tignish native.
Great grandchildren of Stompin’ Tom Connors, Austin and Serinity Beitz, piled Canada Day pins on a picnic table during the first annual Stompin’ Tom Fest to make their own symbol of Canadian pride. The Stompin’ Tom Centre officially opened in Skinners Pond over the Canada Day weekend.
Karen MacLean made her own Stompin’ Tom pin and arrived two hours early to assure herself a good seat for the Canada Day opening of the Stompin’ Tom Centre.