Rollin' down the highway smilin': Visitors keep comin' to the Stompin' Tom Centre
'It's great for the area, great for the region'
The community development group behind the Stompin' Tom Centre in Skinners Pond, P.E.I. says the attraction is exceeding expectations.
There's a steady stream of visitors to the remote area of P.E.I each day, so many they've had to add more dinner-theatre shows and plan to stay open a month longer, till the end of September.
"We had people that just didn't think it was going to happen in rural P.E.I.," said Anne Arsenault, general manager of Tignish Initiatives and the Stompin' Tom Centre.
"We're happy," she said. "It's great to see the support for the centre here."
The dinner theatre started with two shows a week, but with hundreds of people coming daily, it's now been bumped up to four each week and there are still waiting lists.
"It's great for the area, great for the region," said Arsenault.
'It's a legacy for Stompin' Tom'
This is the second summer for the centre — the property features the centre, the Skinners Pond school house, and the homestead where Stompin' Tom Connors lived.
The centre has a restaurant, dinner theatre, gift shop, as well as interactive displays and a museum highlighting Connors' life and achievements.
Tignish Initiatives spent decades developing the idea and securing funding for it.
"It's a legacy for Stompin' Tom Connors," said Arsenault.
Connors was born in Saint John, N.B., and placed in the care of Children's Aid when he was eight years old.
He was later adopted by a family in Skinners Pond and gained fame after he ran away at 13 and hitchhiked across the country performing his own songs. He wrote hundreds of tunes.
Arsenault met Stompin' Tom and said he had a lot of input into what the centre would be like.
"He really had a huge heart and loved Skinners Pond," she said.
Chad Matthews plays Stompin' Tom in the dinner theatre, and says he's amazed at people's reaction to the show and the centre.
"It's pretty overwhelming actually," he said.
"I'm trying to portray him the best I can — he was a great person for Canada," said Matthews.
He said he's been playing and listening to Stompin' Tom's music since he was a kid.
"Every song that Tom wrote and played, told a story — you don't get that a whole lot now."
'Dream come true'
Visitors come from all over Canada and officials with the centre say they see international visitors too.
"It's a dream come true for me, I was a huge fan of his," said Greg Prevost, visiting from Ontario.
During an afternoon concert, Prevost got up on stage to sing too.
"I was emotional and nervous," he said.
Eight-year-old Chelsea Calic, also from Ontario, says she loves watching videos of Stompin' Tom.
"I am here because I'm a huge fan," she said.
Plans to Expand
The success means plans are underway to expand the tourist attraction for next year.
Arsenault said they are looking at creating a picnic area, adding a micro brewery to the site and promoting the venue as a wedding destination.
"We never stop planning for the future," said Arsenault.
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