PEI

Rollin' down the highway smilin': Visitors keep comin' to the Stompin' Tom Centre

The Stompin' Tom Centre in Skinner's Pond has been open for two years now, and it's exceeding expectations for visitors.

'It's great for the area, great for the region'

A steady stream of visitors comes to the centre daily. (Laura Meader/CBC)

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. 

The 10-acre property is located in Skinners Pond, a rural farming and fishing area on the north western tip of P.E.I. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"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."

Anne Arsenault says many thought it would be tough to have an attraction like this in rural P.E.I. but she says visitor numbers show it's working. (Laura Meader/CBC)

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.    

An afternoon crowd gathers to listen to Stompin' Tom music in the theatre hall. (Laura Meader/CBC )

'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.  

An interactive screen lets visitors pick a song and pull up videos of Stompin' Tom singing their choice. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Tignish Initiatives spent decades developing the idea and securing funding for it. 

"It's a legacy for Stompin' Tom Connors," said Arsenault. 

The centre features a recording booth where visitors can sing and record themselves doing one of Connors' famous tunes. (Laura Meader/CBC)

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. 

The centre's parking lot is often full. (Laura Meader/CBC)

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. 

"Overwhelming" 

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. 

Chad Matthews plays Stompin' Tom in the dinner-theatre show. He says it's nice to see people enjoying Stompin' Tom's music. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"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." 

Tignish Initiatives, the economic development group behind the project is already looking at expanding the attraction. (Laura Meader/CBC)

'Dream come true' 

Visitors come from all over Canada and officials with the centre say they see international visitors too. 

Greg Prevost says coming to the Stompin' Tom Centre was 'a dream come true.' (Laura Meader/CBC)

"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. 

Chelsea Calic says she's a huge fan. (Laura Meader/CBC)

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

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

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.

About the Author

Laura Meader is a video journalist for CBC P.E.I.

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