The country music superstars celebrated the former first couple with a convertible built the same year that the Carters were married

Advertisement

Hours ahead of a star-studded bash celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were paid a visit from two of the biggest names in country music — who came bearing a special gift.

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood were both on the guest list for the party Saturday evening, but met with the Carters privately beforehand to present a red convertible built in 1946, the year the former first couple was married.

The Carters' close friend Jill Stuckey tells PEOPLE that the gift arrived to the couple's home in Plains, Georgia, last Wednesday around noon, where it was taken by Secret Service and stored in an area of the compound so the couple wouldn't see it until Saturday.

Upon being presented with the car, the Carters were "very excited," says Stuckey, 60.

"Bright eyes and big smiles and ... very excited time, but there was so much special [about the day] because the people that were here from all aspects of their lives," she says.

Jill Stuckey
The convertible given to the Carters by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
| Credit: Jill Stuckey

In addition to A-list celebrities, the Carters hosted a 300-person guest list that included their friends from their time in the White House, staff members of the Carter Center, representatives from Habitat for Humanity (one of the causes closest to their hearts), and other politicians, including Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"There were people from their church. Nancy Pelosi was here, and the Clintons were here and Ted Turner — who they've gone fishing with forever and are close personal friends with," Stuckey says, adding: "All aspects of their life were covered, so it was just a memory lane."

Stuckey, who helped organize the anniversary celebration, says she was first approached with the idea in November by the former president himself.

"President Carter called me to the house one evening and said, 'I want to have a party.' So, that's the first I heard about it," Stuckey tells PEOPLE.

She adds that both President and Mrs. Carter were "involved in every single detail" of the event. "He still, at 96, managing every little aspect of this special get together," Stuckey says.

Pianist David Osborne entertained the crowd that filled the auditorium at Plains High School. As attendees visited with the couple, they were treated to petit fours inscribed with "75," as well heavy hors d'oeuvres and a celebratory cake.

Stuckey estimates that the party lasted around three hours.

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 19: Honoree Garth Brooks (L) and singer Trisha Yearwood attend the 50th Academy of Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium on April 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
From left: Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
| Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty
Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter
Jimmy Carter (left), Rosalynn Carter
| Credit: The Carter Center

In addition to a toast from their son Chip, the Carters spoke at Saturday's soirée, with Mrs. Carter — wearing a diamond pendant necklace that her husband gave her in honor of the milestone — saying her life "has been an adventure" since first meeting the man she went on to marry.

"It's wonderful to celebrate with so many friends. It's just so good to have you all here and I thank you for making it a good evening, a good time for us to be here and to be with friends we care about very much," she said.

President Carter also briefly took the microphone. "To my wife Rosalynn, I want to express a particular gratitude for being the right woman that I chose for my wife," he said.

Stuckey says the celebration continued through the weekend, with the Carters attending church the next morning at Marantha Baptist, where the former president served as a Sunday school teacher for years.

At the party the evening prior, Stuckey recounts, "President Carter took the microphone from me and announced that he wanted everybody that could to come to church the next morning."

In addition to several of the Carter's family members, former ambassador Stu Eizenstat and Hosue Speaker Nancy Pelosi also attended the church service. "It was an all weekend celebration," Stuckey says.