Stomping in Ompah!

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Late one summer, we heard that there was going to be a music festival over the Labour Day weekend, up 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!

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There wasn’t really much up there at that time.  The most popular thing in Ompah was likely the Trout Lake Hotel owned by Wayne Kearney.  It was a former residence; over 150 years old, in fact it was the oldest building in Ompah and was now a 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 said it was one of the first bars in the province. That place was the home of some famous and infamous barroom brawls too, but we won’t get into that.  There were quiet times, but the people who went up there mostly summer fishing enthusiasts and the winter snowmobiling patrons kept it fairly busy.

trout-lake-hotel

After much anticipation, Labour Day weekend finally arrived.  We packed as many of us 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 up Cameron Side Road, past Calvin Church and over the 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 with tall, majestic trees, situated on a hill, overlooking Palmerston Lake.

palmerston-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.  The step dancing contest was held at about 8pm 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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L-> R: Dennis Rowan (bass) , Neville Wells (vocals, guitar), Peter Clements (drums), Al Webster (guitar),  Band: Sweetwater 

I guess we thought that it was our own little ‘Woodstock’, and over the years the Ompah Stomp grew as people heard about it and wanted to experience the live music and party atmosphere. That first year, the organizers had anticipated about 200 people showing up and they ended up with a crowd of closer to 3,500.  The second year the crowds grew to 5,000 and the third year saw that rise to 6,500.

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

 

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Wayne Rostad

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Some of the musical acts that performed at the Stomp were:  Neville ‘Nev’ Wells, also a member of the Ompah snowmobiling club, 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.

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L -> R: Dennis Rowan, Neville Wells
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 Guitar: Neville Wells

Drums:  Peter Clements                             

 

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Michael O’Reilly

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Gary “Spike” Spicer (guitar)                        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

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Dennis Rowan, Neville Wells

Al Webster

 

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

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ompah_stomp-1978-0031    ompah_stomp-1978-0032

Peter Clements (drums)                                                    Doug Orr

“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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The Road to ‘The Stomp’  – 1983

road-to-ompah-1983Poster from 1984

poster-ompah-stomp-1984

Liquor and beer flowed freely from coolers and wineskins 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.  Usually, if we wanted to hear live music of that calibre we’d have to travel to Ottawa or Kingston, so it was great to have the Ompah Stomp so close by.

 

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The Stomp would carry on for many years after those first few annual celebrations, and people would come up from the States and would come from neighbouring provinces as well, some came from as far as Alberta.  Labour Day weekend was one of the busiest and most exciting for us in the area, because we had the Perth Fair and the Ompah Stomp.

ompah_stomp-1978-0036

Who would have ever thought that a small village of around 100 people and their little snowmobile club would be able to create a music festival that would attract thousands of people from all around. It was another example of the spirit of the people who lived in rural Eastern Ontario.  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; and the Ompah Stomp 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 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.

A link to the 1911 Census of Frontenac County, Palmerston, including Ompah:

http://ontariocensus.rootsweb.ancestry.com/transcripts/1911/3811-1.html

If you would like to read more about the Ompah Stomp, the complete story “Stomping in Ompah” is included in a collection of stories in the book “Lanark County Kid: My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”

lanark-county-kid-book-cover

lanark-county-kid-table-of-contents

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books & Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on 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

 

21 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!

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