VILONIA, Ark. — When you think of rodeos, Arkansas may not be the first state that comes to mind. You probably think of Texas, or even Montana if you’re binge-watching Yellowstone.
But, tucked away in Faulkner County is Lily Wofford, the owner of Wofford Ranch who is hard at work with perhaps the next big name in barrel racing.
That young prodigy is 13-year-old Paris Wilburd, who actually stayed on the ranch during the summer to train in the early morning hours.
"I woke her up at 4 a.m. tapping her on the leg. Come on Paris it’s time to get up, and she was out the door and in the barn with me," Wofford said.
She's not the only who noticed the 13-year-old's passion either. Paris’ mom Zanetta said that her daughter was in love the moment she first saddled up. Her mom said that Paris has always been a cowgirl.
“She’s a Black girl and she rocks that Black girl magic well,” Zanetta said. "She had a binkie, dropped the binkie. Picked it up and got back on. I didn’t hear for non-stop for 3 months. I want to ride, I want to ride, and I want to ride.”
Paris herself will admit that there were some butterflies the first time she rode a horse.
“I was nervous and scared at first. Then I started to get more comfortable as I had more lessons and practice,” Paris said.
Around that time the family connected with Lily who saw how much potential Paris had. Soon, Paris took her talents to the rodeo where she quickly proved she belonged.
“My hands are shaking, I’m sweating, and my heart falls in the pit of my stomach,” Zanetta said.
Despite the nerves, Paris' performed-- and she performed well. Her accolades speak for themselves.
At her young age, Paris has already brought home some impressive awards but she has her eyes on an even bigger prize.
On Saturday, Sept. 24th she’ll be the only Arkansas Cowgirl competing in the Bill Pickett Black Rodeo Finals near Washington D.C. where she hopes to bring home yet another buckle.
“I would be very proud and humble about it, but it would just mean the world to me,” Paris said.
No matter what awards she wins, her mom said that she is extremely proud of who Paris has become.
“You know she’s a prime example of being a young Black girl. Holding her head up high no matter where she’s at. It doesn’t phase her. She doesn’t care she’s just there to ride," Zanetta said.