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Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Garth rocks the Swamp despite early hiccups
Garth rocks the Swamp despite early hiccups

Garth Brooks took off his black Stetson cowboy hat in awe after the crowd joined him in belting out his favorite song from his early 20s.

Before he started the song, Brooks warned the crowd that he was going to play a lot of old cowboy songs and told them to prepare.

Once the crowd finished singing all of the words to “Fishin’ in the Dark” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Brooks, he couldn’t hold back his excitement.

“Are you kidding me?” Brooks screamed to the crowd of about 75,000 in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday night.

The country star took the stage to a sold-out crowd Saturday during the third stop of his national Stadium Tour. This was the first performance at the stadium in 25 years. Lack of parking spots, heavy traffic and crowded seating issues all arose throughout the night.

Brooks performed a mix of what he described as old hits and “cowboy stuff” to the crowd.

In the middle of his show, he and his wife, fellow country artist Trisha Yearwood, performed a rendition of Tom Petty’s hit “I Won’t Back Down.”

He said he was surprised by the crowd’s energy and participation when they sang along to every song.

“It don’t matter what I throw at ya, you’re gonna sing it like that, huh?” Brooks said.

Chris Young, the winner of the country music competition show “Nashville Star,” opened for Brooks.

Brooks acknowledged the significance of his performance in the stadium.

“They say they haven’t had a concert here in over 20 years, well I’m gonna tell everyone this is the place to come play right here,” Brooks said

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Teresa Long Bell, 50, drove over an hour from Lecanto, Florida, to Gainesville to see Brooks. Bell said she enjoyed the few songs she heard from Young but was upset that parking issues caused her and her husband to be late to the show.

“Getting to our parking lot was absolutely atrocious,” Bell said. “Traffic was horrible as there were no policemen helping divert traffic further out.”

Emma Etzold, an 18-year-old UF health science freshman, said she is a huge Brooks fan and shares her love for the country star with her mom.

“My mom actually found out about it,” Etzold said. “She texted me — she sent me a screenshot — and was like ‘Do it!’”

Throughout the night, 18 individuals, none being UF students, were kicked out of the concert, according to a tweet from the University Police. Eleven were removed for disorderly conduct, four for intoxication, one for smoking, one for marijuana and one for battery.

People with field and stadium seats dealt with the difficulty of all trying to go through the same entrance.

Gainesville resident Kathleen Jernigan, 34, was disappointed in the lack of organization, especially after going to the soundcheck the night before to see Brooks perform.

Jernigan, who had seats on the field in front of Brooks, said that she was three or four rows from the front at the soundcheck on Friday night.

“I could pay $10 and get better than I’m getting now paying for these seats,” she said.

Earlier that Friday, Brooks was unable to fly to Gainesville in time for an afternoon press conference due to a severe storm. The event was moved to Saturday afternoon.

At the conference, Brooks said he loves that the secluded Gainesville area builds an “us against the world” mentality in local residents.

“The kind of people that are coming here tonight. These are the kind of people I was raised around,” he said.

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