Stompin' Tom Centre making music despite pandemic restrictions

With outdoor festival grounds and a new stage, the Stompin' Tom Centre in Skinners Pond is up and running.

'We're here and we enjoy everyone that comes in and we're providing work for local people'

Musicians take the stage on the new stage at the Stompin' Tom Centre. (Submitted by Anne Arsenault)

Staff at the Stompin' Tom Centre in Skinners Pond were busy planning their annual festival when the pandemic hit.

Everything came to a halt.

"So we kind of started early thinking about … with the reality of what's going on, how can we look to see about salvaging … some entertainment for the summer season," said Anne Arsenault, the centre's general manager.

To do that, the centre built a new stage and opened new festival grounds designed specifically for physical distancing. The project, which received federal and provincial support, was completed in two weeks.

The ribbon cutting was held Saturday.

The fact that music has returned to the centre is something that Arsenault didn't think would be possible this year.

The stage was built in two weeks, which Arsenault says is thanks to some local contractors. (Submitted by Anne Arsenault)

"I was actually the first one to say, 'I really don't think we're going to have a season at all.' And I know a lot of other people were holding out hope, but … I just felt that we needed to stay safe," she said.

The outdoor area allows for 100 people to attend events. 

Outdoor gatherings of two groups of 50 are allowed if the groups are kept separate under Public Health regulations.

There is a tent on the festival grounds, and a small area in front of it, for 50 people.

"And then the rest of the grounds is the other group of 50," said Arsenault. "So, we have it all set up with picnic tables. They're all spaced 12 feet apart," she said. 

"The rules are in place … you can't socialize between tables, you can't socialize between groups. Both groups are like segregated."

There were 95 in attendance for Saturday's show, said Arsenault. 

Anne Arsenault shows off the Canada's Walk of Fame star awarded to Connors. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"It was very comfortable with 95 people out in that space and another five is definitely doable," she said.

The concert series runs until September. The centre also offers entertainment inside as well, but those events will be limited to 50.

And even with the addition of a new stage alongside the one indoors, the number of people the centre can entertain is still far less than in prior years. 

"Our dinner theatre was a big hit for us in past years and … we would ramp up in our busy season to four or five shows a week, 120 people each," Arsenault said.

"The numbers are down very significantly."

But, despite that, Arsenault is looking forward to a lively summer at the centre. 

"We're here and we enjoy everyone that comes in and we're providing work for local people, and I think it's important that we keep on living," she said.

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