‘Tom’s all over this’

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

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY ERIC MCCARTHY +063/"- 1*0/&&3

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.

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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.

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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.

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