By Janet Bresenham
Faith, family and a passion for what she loves to do have been the driving forces in Wilma Fulgham’s life.
For more than five decades now, Fulgham has continued to invest her time and boundless energy into helping young women and girls participate in competitions and pageants related to horsemanship and rodeo, including this week’s Pioneer Days Rodeo Queen and Princess Pageant and the Little Buckaroo Queen and Princess contest.
“It is a joy to see young women develop their communication skills and their confidence, which they gain through competitions like this,” Fulgham said. “It’s something a college education doesn’t cover and you can’t get it out of a book.”
Fulgham, 72, who grew up near Melrose and now lives in Clovis, sees her activities as a form of ministry in the arenas of life where she likes to be.
“I feel it’s part of reaching out as a part of Christian living,” Fulgham said. “It’s about setting an example for these younger girls. You touch lives that traditional ministries probably do not. I don’t want to be a Bible-thumper; I just want to be a positive influence.”
A pivotal crossroads in her own life came when she was crowned New Mexico’s first State Fair Queen in 1950, after serving as Curry County Fair Queen.
“That’s what got me involved,” Fulgham said. “It changed my life.”
One of her proudest achievements came in the late 1970s, when she helped organize the prayer breakfast for the Miss Rodeo America national competition, a tradition that remains today.
She also started the Little Buckaroo Rodeo 28 years ago as part of Pioneer Days.
For 18 years, she has served as the New Mexico state delegate for the Miss Rodeo America competition, which involves supervising the state portion of the pageant known as Miss Rodeo New Mexico.
Fulgham remains involved with activities at Central Baptist Church, where she has been a member for more than 50 years.
She also helps organize the annual Mesa Redondo Cowboy Camp Meeting, which is in its 26th year, and for a quarter of a century she has served as secretary for the Ranchman’s Camp Meeting Association in the Southwest.
Yet she still finds time to work as the media co-chair for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Her lifelong love for horses and the Western way of life provide even more motivation for her service.
Rodeo activities have played a big part in family life for Fulgham.
She has been married for 51 years to her husband, Benny, a cattle trucker who served as Pioneer Days Rodeo director for more than 20 years in the 1990s.
One son, Jerry, married his childhood sweetheart, Becky, who was Miss Rodeo New Mexico in 1978, at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Another son, Larry, lives with his wife Vicki in Stigler, Okla., where his hobby is rodeo photography.
Wilma and Benny Fulgham also had a third son, Garry, who died at the age of 22 from an aneurysm, and a daughter, Patricia Kay, who died as a result of a premature birth.