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Monday 27 May 2019

He helped build Haiti homes then later served me supper

"In 1997, we were lucky enough to play Croke Park," he said, although the stadium was then being redeveloped.
Garth Brooks at Croke Park stadium, Dublin, during an announcement that he will play at the stadium on July 25 and 26
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

LIFE has some odd twists and turns, but I never expected that Garth Brooks would be serving me dinner one balmy evening in Haiti.

In hindsight, it was a bit like having Johnny Cash mowing your lawn, or Dolly Parton running you a bath. This kind of thing only happens in strange dreams when you have eaten too much cheese.

He was in Haiti in December 2012 with volunteers from the Irish charity Haven (founded by INM chairman Leslie Buckley) and the international group Habitat for Humanity. They were building 100 houses at Leogane, south of Port-au-Prince.

Garth was staying at our camp, pitching a tent with his wife Trisha, also a renowned country star.

In the heat of the day, Garth and Trisha could be seen in hard hat on the building site, hammering in nails, pushing bricks - and painting. And then in the evening he became the camp's dinner server, ladling out grub for sweaty paint-spattered volunteers.

I have to admit that I didn't recognise Garth when a friendly round-faced individual deftly spooned out the main course as I queued in the dinner tent. If I had known who he was I probably would not have urged him to "throw on a few more spuds".

He happily obliged, but I was then taken aside and told who this humble server was. "You know that's Garth Brooks, the country music star, second bestselling solo artist in the US after Elvis?"

Garth seemed unfazed. Up until that point I was not Garth's greatest fan as a performer.

The American volunteers in the group were reticent about approaching the VIP, but the Irish showed no such reserve, and chatted away to him.

The affable star stood there for almost an hour, and talked about his trips to Ireland.

Some had been to Croke Park in 1997 when he packed out the stadium - not just once but three times.

On one of his '90s albums he recorded 'Ireland', a tale of an emigrant returning home. He said he recorded it "because Ireland treats us like family".

His Irish blood is believed to come from has great-grandmother.

Recently Garth Brooks' shows have been rarer, as he brings up his children in Oklahoma. No wonder the Irish fans among our group were thrilled when he picked up his guitar in the camp under the stars in Haiti and played all of his hits, including 'If Tomorrow Never Comes' and 'The Dance'. It was then that I began to see his appeal.

Everybody asked him when he was coming back to Ireland to perform.

Now we finally know.

Irish Independent

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