Karen Garrison, of Darlington, is wife to husband Mark and mother to three children: Markus, 24; Brook, 22 and Garth, 20. She owns Karen’s Hair Kair in Gratiot, helps her husband operate their dairy farm in Lamont Township and is a self-proclaimed homebody.
She’s also a pretty big Garth Brooks fan, if that wasn’t obvious from the names of her two youngest children, who were actually named after the country music star.
So, when Garth Brooks himself came to Darlington to meet Karen as part of Good Morning America’s Garth Brooks Mother’s Day Surprise contest on Friday, May 8, and perform a personal serenade for her, she was in shock, to say the least.
“It was a dream come true,” said Karen. “I still can’t believe it all really happened.”
Good Morning America arrived at the Garrison farm Friday morning to talk to Karen and her family and when they went outside they were greeted by over 100 people from the community, friends and family of the Garrisons and even the high school band.
Eventually, Garth Brooks snuck up behind Karen and put his arm around her.
“At first I thought it was my husband, but whoever it was smelled like fabric softener, and I know we don’t use that much in our laundry,” said Karen with a laugh. “So I didn’t have any idea who it was and when I turned around it was Garth Brooks.”
But the surprise didn’t end with just meeting Garth Brooks. After he finished his song, he invited Karen and her family, along with her children’s significant others to fly back to Nebraska with him on his personal jet to watch his concert that night.
“Him coming to the farm was one thing, but taking us all out there on his own jet was just….something completely different,” said Karen. “The whole thing was just way more than I ever expected. I feel very blessed with everything that happened and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The private jet ride and concert was more than anyone was expecting in fact, as the invitation was extended by Garth Brooks out of the blue after he sang to Karen.
In fact the Garrisons, Brook’s boyfriend - Nick Ubersox and Garth’s girlfriend - Rebecca Mathias had to rush and get ready to leave almost immediately. Luckily Karen’s brothers and Mark’s brothers volunteered to milk that day, so the family was able to accept the invitation.
“On the plane afterwards, he [Garth Brooks] said he noticed right away there were seven of us, and that seven is his lucky number, and that he just knew he needed to invite us to the concert,” said Brook, Karen’s daughter. Luckily there just happened to be exactly seven open seats available on Garth Brooks’ private jet.
“He was very respectful and really sweet to everyone, especially me,” said Karen. “And he was just so humble and normal. Once we were away from the house and on the plane he was just like a normal man, you wouldn’t even know he was a star.”
Garth Brooks even checked with everyone to see what they liked to eat, and when he found out that Karen didn’t eat pizza, he had Chick-Fil-A ready on the plane just for her.
After reaching Nebraska, Garth Brooks went on to spend the whole day with the Garrisons, talking and getting to know them; playing wiffleball with the family; introducing them to his wife, Trisha Yearwood; allowing Karen to hold several of his awards, including a Grammy and showering the family with free merchandise.
“Everything he had for sale, I have one of,” said Karen. “It was just amazing, he was so great to everyone. He was so good to my family, but he was very good to me.”
“The day was definitely all about Mom,” said Brook. “It was her day and everyone there knew who she was and were so nice to us. Everyone kept giving her high fives and treating us really well. We had access to everything.”
Brook, who has always enjoyed singing, even got the opportunity to sing with Trisha Yearwood during sound check, with Garth Brooks doing backup.
“It was such as huge moment,” said Brook. “I couldn’t really believe it was happening.”
During the concert, the Garrisons were featured on the jumbotron several times, and afterwards were escorted back to the private jet and were back home in Darlington by midnight.
“It was just a crazy life-changing experience,” said Karen.
And it all came about after Brook’s entry in the Good Morning America Garth Brooks Mother’s Day Surprise contest was chosen as the winner.
“Us being named after Garth Brooks was really what made it,” explained Brook. “No one else had a story quite like that.”
Brook said her mom knew she had entered the contest, but when it actually started to happen she had to throw Karen off the trail.
“I told her that I went to talk to them, but that I messed it up and it probably wouldn’t happen,” she said.
So, Karen who hadn’t thought there was much of a chance of winning in the first place, thought that was that.
But the preparations for her family were only beginning. With producers and sound and lighting people flying in to view the farm and check on things like electrical access and get things set up for the big day almost a week in advance, the Garrisons needed Karen out of the house and away from all the preparations.
“I’m really a home person, and they just had me running everywhere for all kinds of strange reasons,” said Karen.
Even the family’s Amish neighbors were in on the plan, often distracting Karen from what was happening at her own home.
In fact, Karen was pretty upset with her family during the time leading up to the big event, as they were off filming interviews for the segment and talking with producers when they were supposed to be helping Karen at the farm.
When they forced her out of the house for dinner Thursday night in her work clothes saying it was for Mother’s Day, she was pretty annoyed.
“I couldn’t believe they made me go out to a bar for dinner in those clothes, and said it was for Mother’s Day, but I didn’t say anything because I thought well this is it,” she said.
Finally the morning arrived, and her family started acting even more strange.
“My husband locked me in the bathroom for 40 minutes and just told me I had to get dressed,” said Karen. “I thought he had lost it. It’s funny looking back, but at the time I was really worried,” she added.
Eventually, all was made clear and Karen was assured that her family really wasn’t crazy.
“In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think anything like this was ever going to happen,” said Karen.
“Seeing her reaction to it all was really the greatest thing,” said Brook.
“It was the greatest Mother’s Day present ever,” said Karen. But she also got some of the mulch she had originally asked for.