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She came to see Garth Brooks at Sprint Center and he gave her his guitar

Sarah Rivera at home with her sign that attracted Garth Brooks and the guitar he gave her. She will hang it from her new self-serve wine bar, scheduled to open soon.
Sarah Rivera at home with her sign that attracted Garth Brooks and the guitar he gave her. She will hang it from her new self-serve wine bar, scheduled to open soon.

May 6 was a day of firsts for Sarah Rivera.

She attended her first concert at the Sprint Center: the Saturday night Garth Brooks show, the third of his five shows that weekend. It was the fifth Brooks show for Rivera but the first time she had a seat on the floor and the first time she brought a sign to one of his shows.

By the end of the concert, there would be another first: walking away with one of Brooks’ guitars.

“It was so crazy,” Rivera told The Star on Thursday from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she has lived for almost three years. “I’ve thought back on it and wonder, ‘Do I remember everything correctly?’ It was so surreal.”

Rivera grew up in Sidney, a speck of a town in southwest Iowa about 140 miles north of Kansas City.

“I grew up kind of in the Kansas City area,” she said. “We’re all big fans of all the sports teams.”

A Navy wife, she and her family moved frequently. Her husband, Scott, was active duty for 20 years, she said.

“We’ve lived all over the country and lived in Japan for a couple of years,” she said. “For the most part, I was a stay-at-home mom really until this year. Our oldest one is getting ready to graduate high school — this is his 10th school.”

The sign she held that attracted Brooks’ attention during his encore was a list of things she wanted to do in May: “See Garth in K.C. Open new business. Son’s HS graduation.”

Plus a request: “Can you play ‘Standing Outside the Fire’ and ‘Mom’ for me?”

“When I was holding up my sign,” Rivera recalled, “a couple of guys in front of me told me, ‘You gotta get closer. Get closer.’ But I was like, ‘No, no. I’m not going to walk around people.’ Then (Brooks) saw it and said, ‘Come closer.’ So I did.”

After reading her list aloud, Brooks took it from Rivera and offered to autograph it but then had a better idea.

Instead, he autographed the acoustic guitar he’d been playing and handed it over to Rivera, who buried her face in her hands and wept joyously.

“I’m not sure what moment I realized what was really going on,” she said. “It was like, ‘This isn’t really happening, is it?’ It was an out-of-body experience.”

A few minutes later, a member of Brooks’ crew delivered the guitar’s case to Rivera, who had some company for the rest of the show.

“I had a security guard next to me the rest of the show,” she said. “After pretty much everybody had left, they escorted me to the exit. Luckily, I was parked in the parking garage about a block away. So I put a death grip on that case and went straight to my car.”

She then drove straight to her parents’ home in Sidney.

She has homes picked out for the guitar and the case: in that business she is opening in Cedar Rapids in about 10 days, a self-serve wine lounge called Della Viti.

“We have these machines that hold four bottles,” she told The Star. “Customers come in and put money on a card, put it in a machine and they can get either a 1-ounce taste, half a glass or a full glass.

“I have a spot for (the guitar) over one of the wine machines. And I’ll display the case as well in a different part of the bar.”

Rivera said the Sprint Center show was her favorite of her five Brooks shows — even without the unexpected gift.

“It was the best. The experience of being on the floor and being a lot closer was so awesome. I loved how everyone was singing along all night. The atmosphere was so great.”

And Brooks, who also played her request “Standing Outside the Fire” in his encore, made what was already great even greater.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

This weekend

Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood. 7 p.m. Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13. Sprint Center. $74.98. www.sprintcenter.com

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