Fifteen years ago this week, the greatest country music artist of all time, Garth Brooks, made history by playing a free concert to a massive crowd in New York's Central Park. Now, not just anybody gets to play Central Park, but Brooks had the megawatt stroke in the entertainment biz back then to make it happen. The event was broadcast live on HBO, and an estimated 750,000 people turned out to listen, making it one of the largest concerts in American history.
Or was it? Garth wasn't the first artist reported to draw a six-figure crowd to Central Park, but he was the last. You see, a funny thing happened in 2004, when the city denied permits to two groups looking to hold anti-war rallies in the park on the dubious claim that the mass gatherings would damage the grounds.
That decision was immediately challenged in court, with the rally organizers pointing to mega-concerts like Brooks' as proof that the park could handle assemblies hundreds of thousands strong with no problem.