Watch This 11-Year-Old Farm Girl Do Spot-On Animal Calls on America's Got Talent - Modern Farmer

Watch This 11-Year-Old Farm Girl Do Spot-On Animal Calls on America’s Got Talent

Her second appearance on the show is Tuesday night.

11-year-old Lilly Wilker's talent for animal calls landed her a spot on America's Got Talent.
Photography Lilly Wilker on Instagram, @roosterroo

“When I was three years old, my grandparents took me to visit a marine park in Florida. When I was petting the dolphin, I let out a dolphin squeak, and the dolphin squeaked back!” she says. A similar scene played out a few years later, at Sea World, only this time the dolphin swam away from its trainer…and toward Lilly.

Since that first fortuitous squeak, the young lady has added a menagerie of animals to her repertoire, including goats, turkeys, and chickens, and her quirky act has taken her from local competitions (she’s the four-time animal-call champion of the Auglaize County Fair) to national TV. She’s appeared alongside Steve Harvey on Little Big Shots and on Harry Connick Jr.’s daytime talk show.

In early June, the pre-teen trotted out impressions of a horse, a dog, a rooster, a duck and more for her largest-ever audience when she auditioned for America’s Got Talent in primetime. “I felt like a tiny doll on that stage,” she says. Lilly easily charmed all four judges – even the notoriously prickly Simon Cowell – and earned four “yes” votes, which meant she advanced to the brutal Judge Cuts, a series of four elimination episodes. Her second previously recorded audition will air at 8 pm on Tuesday, July 17.

Lilly keeps her act sharp by performing in and around her hometown of New Bremen, Ohio (pop. 2,900). Her mom, Amy, says Lilly especially enjoys visiting senior-citizen centers.

“This is a rural area, so there are a lot of retired farmers who aren’t around animals much anymore,” Amy says. “Lilly helps them reminisce back to the time they spent on the farm.” It also helps Lilly feel connected to her paternal grandmother, another animal-call champ who passed away before Lilly was born.

On her family’s 4.5 acre farm, Lilly lives with three horses, three rabbits, eight chickens and two dogs. She and her sisters (she’s the third of five girls) also keep goats and sheep as part of a 4H project. “If I’m sad or having a bad day, after school I go out to the barn and brush the horses,” Lilly says. “I relax out there. It’s my happy place.”

Lilly admits that being a little bit famous is a whole lot of fun: She’s traveled to Los Angeles and New York City for her TV appearances. Last fall, the mayor of New Bremen presented her with the first-ever key to the village, and when she appeared on Harry Connick’s show, her school hosted a viewing party – with pizza, naturally. Her mom says that “keeping a secret” has proven to be one of the biggest challenges of Lilly’s ever-heightening profile – once she tapes a TV segment, she can’t share any details with friends and family until it airs, which can be weeks or even months later.

After her first AGT audition, Cowell advised Lilly that in order to be a serious contender for the show’s million-dollar grand prize, she’d “need to step up the act.” And while she can’t reveal specifics about what we’ll see on Tuesday night, can we assume she took Cowell’s advice to heart? “I went outside of my comfort zone,” she says. “Let’s put it that way.”

No matter what happens on TV, this rising sixth grader says her future will likely involve animals, maybe a career as a vet or a marine biologist. “And I would love to do voice overs in movies,” she adds. But let’s say she does win the million AGT bucks? She’ll donate most of it to charity (hospitals and animal shelters are at the top of her list) and keep just enough to buy a border collie, which Lilly calls her “dream dog.” “I really adore them,” she says. “All I want is a border collie.”

Lilly’s next appearance on America’s Got Talent, on NBC, will be Tuesday, July 17. Check your local listings for channel and time. Follow Lilly on Instagram at @roosterroo and on Facebook.

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