Stomping in Ompah!

ompah-sign

 

“Drivin’ country roads, highway 509,

August sun is shinin’, and we’re feelin’ fine,

Been workin’ real hard, and we need a little break,

Headin’ for the party up at Palmerston Lake

 

Grab a bottle, twist the cap, and pass it around,

Swayin’ with my baby to the country sounds,

Music’s loud, fool around, go for a romp,

This is how we do it at the Ompah Stomp”

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

 

 

The Ompah Stomp

It was late August, 1978, that we heard about a music festival, to be held over the Labour Day weekend, in Ompah.  This was going to be a back-roads tour, to end all back-roads tours – an outdoor party with live music, and we couldn’t wait!

 

winding-road

The Village of Ompah

In those days, Ompah was a tiny, quiet, village.  The most popular place in Ompah, was the Trout Lake Hotel, owned by Wayne Kearney.

The building was originally a private residence; over 150 years old, in fact it was the oldest building in Ompah. Over the years, the residence became a popular local bar. The old timers around there say that they began serving liquor there in 1904.  It was the first licensed establishment in Eastern Ontario, and the locals also claimed that it was one of the first bars in the province.

The hotel was rumoured to have been the setting for some famous and infamous barroom brawls too, but we won’t get into that. The busiest times were in the summer. During the year, there were quiet times, but the seasonal visitors, mostly summer fishing enthusiasts, and the winter snowmobiling patrons, kept it fairly busy.

 

trout-lake-hotel

Trout Lake Hotel, Ompah, Ontario

 

The First Ompah Stomp

After much anticipation, Labour Day weekend, 1978,  finally arrived.

We jammed as many young people that could fit, into one of my friend’s parent’s cars, and off we headed to Ompah.  We drove up the Third Line, and turned onto Cameron Side Road, past Calvin Church, over the railroad tracks, and onto Hwy 7. We turned onto the Elphin Maberly Road, and continued onto Hwy 509, then Lake Road, and Lafolia Lane.  We parked, and got out of the car. The Stomp grounds were beautiful, green, and lush, with tall, majestic trees, situated on a hill, overlooking scenic Palmerston Lake.

Palmerston Lake

Palmerston Lake  (also referred to locally as Trout Lake)

That first Ompah Stomp, was held on September 3, 1978, and their special guests were Max Keeping of CJOH TV, and Doug Anderson of CKBY FM.  There was a step dancing contest, held at about 8 p.m., followed by old fashioned round and square dancing.  The musical guest artists that year were Sneezy Waters, Mike O’Reilly, and Wayne Rostad.

 

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Thomas Burke’s Store, Ompah

 

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L-> R: Dennis Rowan (bass) , Neville Wells (vocals, guitar), Peter Clements (drums), Al Webster (guitar),  Band: Sweetwater 

Over the years, we grew to believe, that this annual country music festival, was our own little ‘Woodstock’.  The Ompah Stomp grew, in leaps and bounds, as people heard about it, and wanted to experience the live music, and party atmosphere.

That first year, in 1978, the organizers had anticipated about 200 people attending, and the total numbers were closer to 3,500.  The second year,  the crowds grew to 5,000 and the third year, saw the attendance numbers rise to 6,500.

 

ompah_stomp-1978-0009

L  – Tony Hickey       Centre –  Paul Munro,     R. – Brent Munro

 

 

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Wayne Rostad

 

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Local dancers – showing off their moves

Some of the musical acts that performed at the Stomp were:  Neville ‘Nev’ Wells, , the Family Brown, Jack McRae and the King of Clubs, The Prescott Brothers, Hugh Scott, Ron McMunn and Carbine, Steve Glenn, David Thompson, Fred Dixon, Lynn and Chris, Lloyd Wilson, Dallas Harms, Ted Daigle, C-Weed Band, Terry Carisse and many others.

ompah_stomp-1978-0001

L – R: Dennis Rowan, Neville Wells
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Guitar: Neville Wells

 

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Drums:  Peter Clements    
                        

 

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Michael O’Reilly

 

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1978 – early crowds at the Ompah Stomp

 

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Gary “Spike” Spicer (guitar)    

 

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                      Warren Sutcliffe (bass) 

 

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Pete McCormick (drums)

 

“Perth Courier” September 12, 1979 – a review of the second year of the ‘Stomp’:

ompah-stomp-sept-2-1979-perth-courier

ompah_stomp-1978-0003

Dennis Rowan, Neville Wells

 

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Al Webster

 

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Sneezy Waters

 

A poem written by Kathy Norwood, about the ‘Stomp’, printed in March 1980

poem-on-ompah-stomp

 

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Peter Clements (drums) 

 

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                                                                        Doug Orr

 

The Crowds Grew Larger Each Year

The Ompah Stomp became a much-anticipated annual event, and was featured in the local newspapers.

“Perth Courier”  Sept. 2, 1981,  page 19:

ompah-stomp-sept-2-1981-perth-courier-edited

Poster from 1982

ompah-stomp-poster-1982

 

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A section of the happy crowd – 1978

 

The Road to ‘The Stomp’  – 1983

road-to-ompah-1983

 

Poster from 1984

poster-ompah-stomp-1984

 

Liquor and beer flowed freely from coolers and wine-skins, and the lineup at the washroom facilities was unbelievably long, but everyone enjoyed themselves just the same.  It was wonderful to have a music festival so close to us.  In those days, if we wanted to hear live music of that caliber, we’d have to travel to Ottawa or Kingston, so it was great to have the Ompah Stomp so nearby.

 

country-music-1

 

As the years passed by, the Ompah Stomp had a reputation as a wild party, and the local police adopted stricter controls for the festival.

sharbot-lake-2

sharbot-lake-opp-1

The Stomp carried on for many years, after those first few annual celebrations. Visitors traveled from the U.S., and from neighbouring provinces as well.

Labour Day weekend was one of the busiest and most exciting times for us, in the area, because of the Ompah Stomp.

ompah_stomp-1978-0036

Looking back, it’s difficult to imagine that a tiny village of around 100 people, and their local snowmobile club, could create a music festival, attracting thousands of people, from all around.

The Ompah Stomp was a shining example of the spirit of the people in rural Eastern Ontario, and what they could accomplish.  They never faltered in their belief that they could succeed, or lacked the confidence to organize a music festival just because they were a handful of folks, from a tiny village.

The Ompah Stomp became a metaphor, an example for all of us, that it only takes a few people who believe strongly in something to make a difference.  It sure made a difference for us kids in the country, who were always looking for a little excitement.

I will always remember those special times at the Ompah Stomp, and how they made our last weekend each summer something we’d all remember fondly for years to come.

Photos from the 1978 Ompah Stomp from the private collection of Don White, from the band, Grateful We’re Not Dead:  Grateful We’re Not Dead Facebook Page

Many thanks to Don White and Neville Wells for providing the names of the musicians in the photos!

Neville Wells, a founding father of the ‘Ompah Stomp’, was inducted into the Ottawa Valley County Music Hall of Fame, in 1994.

Neville Wells Hall of Fame

For more information on Grateful We’re Not Dead:  Grateful We’re Not Dead Official Band Website

……..

Some of the families who settled around Ompah:  Dunham, Kelford, Closs, Conlon, Dawson, Ellenberger, Elliott, English, Gunner, Hitchcock, Cox, Keller, Killlingbeck, Kirkwood, Mabo, Massey, McGonigal, McDougall, Molyneaux, Moore, McDonald, Murphy, Payne, Praskey, Sproule, Thomas, Tooley, Richardson, Riddell, Roberts, Sproule, Stewart, Stinson, Thomas, Uens, Ostler, MacRow, Martelock, James, Ackerman, Allen, Struthers, Brown, Gunsinger, Lemke, Armstrong, Jeannerett, Hermer, McNeil, Badour, Johnston, Kring, HIll, Weiss, Wood, Card, Boyd, Dempster, Donaldson, Larock, Morrow, Mundell, Praskey, Ryder, Shanks.

 

… Search for your ancestor in the 1901 Census of Canada:

 

1901 Census of Canada

Why Did the Ompah Stomp end? Find out the real reasons behind the final days of the Ompah Stomp, from the people who were there…

Discover the ‘glory days’ of the Ompah Stomp, how it began, who was there, the unforgettable parties, the music, and more:

“The Legendary Ompah Stomp”, in the book –

‘Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home’   ISBN: 978-0-9877026-61

Book Launch poster 1

 

Available at The Book Nook and Other Treasures, and The Bookworm, in Perth, Mill Street Books in Almonte,  or online at  http://www.staffordwilson.com

For more information on the history of Ompah and some of its founding families:

Clarendon and Miller Community Archives:

http://www.clarmillarchives.ca/index.html

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

29 comments on “Stomping in Ompah!

  1. Patricia Murphy says:

    Growing up I attended the stomp ! It truly was a great time. Was wondering if there would be a possibility that we could bring it back ?

  2. Sherry Watson says:

    The first Ompah stomp was held on my Aunt’s property, Mary Ann Norton . We had a great view from the cottage and many fond memories in the years after that.

  3. Kate Stirk says:

    MY HUSBAND AND I HAD OUR BOYS UP TO OMPAH,BK WHEN KITTY WELLS AND HER BAND WERE THIER. ALSO THE SINGING GRANDMOTHER ( EDIE THOMAS ) GOT TO MEET THEM BOTH, KITTY IS MY ( IDOL? ) LOVED THE YODELING TOO. HAD A GREAT TIME WE LOVED IT.

    • Hi Kate. You are so lucky to have met Kitty Wells. I think she was known as the ‘Queen of Country’. It was a great loss when Kitty passed away in 2012. She was such an icon in country music. Did you manage to take any photos with Kitty? I would love to see them! Thanks for sharing your story Kate!

  4. CLARA WHITE says:

    MY HUSBANDS FAMILY CAME FROM THE ARDOC AND OMPAH AREAS AND WE ATTENDED MANY STOMPS AS WELL AS A FUNDRAISER FOR THE RICE WARS IN ARDOC — I ACTUALLY GOT ON STAGE AND SANG WITH ONE OF THE OLD BANDS AND HAD A GREAT TIME

  5. Robert Hart says:

    Is there room for RV’s as we always went to the Clog in Low, QC. Good time was had by all and great entertainment.

  6. Jim Mac says:

    I was a member of The Sharbot Lake Lions Club and we flipped bbq chicken on large racks at the Stomp for a number of years…..we generally sold out with anywhere from 800 to 1000 chicken halves……….great music and good times……Jim MacPherson

    • Thanks for sharing your memories Jim. That’s a lot of chicken! The Stomp seemed to grow in leaps and bounds each year; didn’t it? The Lion’s Club always had excellent food and it was a ‘safe’ place for us to eat. The music was great and the party was always memorable!

      • Robert Hart says:

        It was the greatest week-end for country music. I was a member of Winchester Lions Club and we were like a brother club with Low. Sure miss those days but will never forget them.

      • Hi Robert – I think there are a lot of us who would agree that it really was the greatest week-end for country music. There were so many good bands and great performances. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Brenda says:

    I miss the Stomp We started going in the early 90s We would go up on a Friday and stay until Monday Morning Friends of our had a couple of old Hunting Cabins. Right across the Road from the Hotel going down that Road a bit to the right, I remember meeting the Stomp bus to take us down to the Stomp Grounds, It was one big party all Weekend for sure. Every year there was more and more people joining us And popping into the Camp Pitching Tents. I remember Kitty Wells, Tammy Baker, Neville Wells I remember meeting a Local old fellow named Ernie Cox he was from there And he was telling us some old stories How back in the day it would take them a week sometimes two too get to Perth in the Horse and buggy day in the winter because of the treacherous roads And had to buy enough grub to last them for months. I loved to hear the Stories from this man. I think he said he lived on crotch lake lol Sure was Great times, And I;m sure it they had of kept it going. Generations of families would still be going. All kids had a ball running around out there and loved it. Sure miss it.

    • Hi Brenda – thanks so much for sharing your memories of the Stomp. You’re right about the crowds increasing each year, and the wonderful music. I don’t recall Ernie Cox, but there were some really good stories told during Stomp weekend, and some great folks living in the area. The Stomp was something we’ll never forget!

  8. william Blake says:

    Hi Arlene I went to the Stomp for year,s I had a good time at it that gentleman that Brenda was Garnet Cox.. Bill.

  9. Archives says:

    The community archives in the Ompah area are preparing a guidebook to be published this year. We would like permission to use the photo of Neville Wells and the article that was published in the Perth Courier the second year of the Stomp.

  10. Kimberly says:

    Hi Arlene, you forgot one family name who settled/lived around the Ompah area, the Elliott’s, my Mom & Dad owned Elliott’s General Store near the campground. My Mom was involved with the Stomp for the whole duration of the festival. And my Grampa & Gramma Elliott lived in Ompah. I would love if you would add the Elliott’s to this list.Thanks!

    • Hi Kimberly – I sure can, and thanks very much for letting me know. It’s important; particularly when people are researching their family history and can find their names associated to a place. Thanks for stopping by! Take care!

  11. Steve Cooney says:

    Remember the first one very well and had a blast , unfortunately the OPP do not like people having fun and as a result harassed many and made things difficult

    • Steve- others have made similar comments, and there’s even been speculation that there was political pressure for law-enforcement to treat the Ompah Stomp ‘differently’ than other local events and festivals.

  12. Nicole Hayes (Kelford) says:

    I miss the Ompah Stomp, I looked forward to every year as I used to help my grandpa (Bill Kelford) with the toll booth that was set up right in front of my house. The fire truck was parked at the end of my lane way, I can remember the cars lined up way down the road and around the corner far as I could see, and everyone of them stoped and put money in the fire boot. The money went out to a good cause. The last year for the good old Ompah was 1999. I wish they would bring the Ompah Stomp back a lot of good memories.

  13. Nancy Byng says:

    My mother, Hilda Irene Kelford, has (she is deceased) many many Kelford relatives; which, of course, are mine as well. The Ompah relatives are our cousins. My husband & I went to the Stomp only a couple of times (not long before it closed for good). I remember meeting Whispering Bill Anderson; I just love him. We have a Kelford/Watson family reunion every year (beginning, I believe, in 1985). For the last number of years we have had it at the Robertson Lake Community Park; it’s a wonderful place & not too far from Ompah.

    • Thanks for sharing your connection to Ompah, Nancy. It’s wonderful that you have the Kelford/Watson reunion every year. Ompah is such a neat place, with such a long, interesting history, and yes, lots of Kelford pioneers.

  14. Judy Beggs says:

    Judy Beggs had many great times up there in years starting in 1988 Love all the story’s

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