Music News & Reviews

She couldn’t see Garth Brooks in Paso. But this local woman got a big surprise from the star

Stuart and Denise Stewart pose for a photo with country star Garth Brooks, right, backstage at Brooks’ concert Friday at The Forum in Inglewood.
Stuart and Denise Stewart pose for a photo with country star Garth Brooks, right, backstage at Brooks’ concert Friday at The Forum in Inglewood.

Garth Brooks, it seems, will do just about anything for his fans.

That’s what Arroyo Grande resident Denise Stewart discovered Friday, when she landed front-row tickets, a wad of cash and a face-to-face encounter with her favorite country star.

“I’ve always been a fan, but this kicked it up a couple notches,” Stewart, 66, said with a chuckle.

It all started when Stewart tried to snag tickets via to the first of Brooks’ two sold-out concerts at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles. “I clicked within the first second ... and up pops the ‘all sold out’ notice. Not sure how much faster I could have been,” an exasperated Stewart wrote in her first-ever Letter to the Editor, published July 5 in The Tribune.

Rather than “line the scalper’s pockets” by buying tickets to Brooks’ July 27 fair concert second-hand, the retired health administrator wrote, she and her husband, former Pismo Beach wastewater systems supervisor Stuart Stewart, opted for seats at Brooks’ show with wife Trisha Yearwood at The Forum in Inglewood the following night. “It’s definitely going to cost a few more bucks ... but it’s the principle of the matter.”

“We had barely sat down in our seats” in the “nosebleed section” of the Forum on Friday, Denise Stewart said, when a woman approached her and asked her name. That woman — Brooks’ tour manager, Tracy Greenwood — told the Stewarts that Brooks had read Denise’s letter and wanted to meet her.

“I just kept looking at her going, ‘Are you kidding me?’ recalled Stewart, former chief operating officer at Community Health Centers of the Central Coast. “I kind of thought I was in for a big punking.”

Her amazement grew as Greenwood escorted the couple to a backstage greenroom. “All of the sudden the door opens and he (Brooks) walks out” in a baseball hat, jeans and T-shirt, Stewart said. “I couldn’t even speak at first.”

The country star chatted with the Stewarts — even teasing Stuart Stewart, 66, about his name — and snapped a couple of selfies with them.

Then Greenwood escorted the couple to seats that were “maybe 10 feet from the stage,” Denise Stewart said, and, after asking the Stewarts how much their trip cost, handed them $400 in cash to cover expenses including gas and a Marina del Rey hotel room. (In the interest of “paying it forward, we put extra money in the collection” Sunday at St. Paul The Apostle Catholic Church in Pismo Beach, Stewart said.)

“I am so glad I didn’t go to Paso Robles,” Stewart said with a chuckle.

She’s still reeling from the experience of watching Brooks play her favorite hit, “Friends in Low Places,” at Friday’s “fantastic” concert.

“He was extremely gracious, extremely humble and just the nicest person you’d want to meet,” Stewart said of the country star. “He really does care about the fans. I think that’s why he has so many of them.”