Angola Prison Rodeo

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Louisiana State Penitentiary, the site of the rodeo

The Angola Prison Rodeo, staged at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, is the longest running prison rodeo in the United States.

It is held on one weekend in April and on every Sunday in October. On each occasion, thousands of visitors enter the prison complex.[1] Various prisoner organizations sell food at concession stands. Many of the prisoners use family recipes to craft the concession stand food. Prison guards conduct the financial transactions at the Angola Rodeo.[2]

As part of the prison rodeo,[3] there is an Arts and Crafts Festival that is biannual. Prisoners make handmade work. Melissa Schrift, author of "Angola Prison Art: Captivity, Creativity, and Consumerism", wrote that "In addition to introducing innovations into vernacular prison art forms, Angola inmates find enormous value in creating works that embody or mimic the everyday images and goods so readily available in the outside world."[4]

The rodeo raises funds for religious educational programs for prisoners. As of 2013 each spring rodeo raises $450,000.[3] The rodeo's slogan is "the wildest show in the South".[3]


The idea of the rodeo was born in 1964.[2] The Rodeo, a collaboration between prisoners and employees, began in 1965.[5] Cathy Fontenot, the Assistant Warden, said that originally prisoners and staff backed pickup trucks into a field "and would go out there and play around on horses."[2] In 1967 LSP opened the Rodeo to outside spectators. As time passed, LSP erected bleachers and adopted the rules of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In addition the administration added an Arts and Crafts festival, and added stock animals and rodeo clowns. The current 10,000-person stadium opened in 2000.[5]


Started in 1964, the Angola Prison Rodeo began as a recreational activity for the inmates and officers, and originally was closed to the public. A few years later, people began to flock to the rodeo and watch from apple crates or car hoods outside of the fence. When its popularity grew, the prison took notice of the economic opportunity and began selling tickets and building seating for the spectators. The Rodeo is still in operation today, 50 years later, the oldest operating prison rodeo in America.[6]


  1. Grand Entry - Angola Rough Riders enter the arena at full gallop and colors are presented.
  2. Bust Out - All six chutes open simultaneously, releasing six angry bulls, with temporarily attached inmate cowboys. The last man to remain on the bull wins the event.
  3. Bareback Riding - Riders are expected to keep one hand in the air, and must stay on the horse for eight seconds to qualify.
  4. Wild Horse Race - Six wild horses are simultaneously released into the arena with short ropes dragging behind them. Three-man teams attempt to grab the ropes and hold the horse long enough for a team member to mount. The first team to cross the finish line while still on top of the horse is the winner.
  5. Barrel Racing - This is the only event in which inmates do not participate. It is a tour stop for The Girl's Rodeo Association. Contestants race their horse in a pattern between three carefully placed barrels. The fastest time wins.
  6. Bull-Dogging - The animal is placed in a chute, with two cowboys positioned just outside the chute. Their job is to wrestle the animal to the ground as quickly as possible.
  7. Buddy Pick-Up - This event requires one man on a horse (riding bareback) to navigate the length of the arena, pick up another inmate who is standing on a barrel, and race back to the finish line.
  8. Wild Cow Milking - Teams of inmate cowboys chase the animals around the arena trying to extract a little milk. The first team to bring milk to the judge wins the prize.
  9. Bull Riding - This dangerous and wide open event is what the fans come to see. Inexperienced inmates sit on top of a 2,000 pound Brahma bull. To be eligible for the coveted "All-Around Cowboy" title, a contestant must successfully complete the ride (6 seconds). The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules govern this event.
  10. Convict Poker - Four inmate cowboys sit at a table in the middle of the arena playing a game of poker. A bull is then released with the sole purpose of unseating the poker players. The last man remaining seated is the winner.
  11. Guts & Glory - A chit (poker chip) is tied to a Brahma bull. The object here is to get close enough to the bull to snatch the chip.[7]

Additional points of interest[edit]

  • The Angola Prison Rodeo also includes an Arts and Crafts show, complete with concessions; all produced by inmates.
  • Writer/Director Jeff Smith entered the 2008 Jackson Hole Film Festival with his film "Six Seconds of Freedom."[8]
  • Simeon Soffer directed the documentary "Wildest Show in the South: the Angola Prison Rodeo.", which won the 2000 International Documentary Association's Distinguished Achievement Award and was nominated for an Academy Award.[9]
  • The $450,000 a day revenue brought in by the rodeo "pays for Baptist seminary classes at the prison, funerals for inmates, educational programs and maintenance of the prison's six chapels."[10]
  • 2010 was the first year that the rodeo will include the Angola Prison Horse Sale.[11]



  1. ^ "Time in Prison."[dead link] Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections. 34/40. Retrieved on September 23, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c *The Kitchen Sisters. "Broncos and Boudin: The Angola Prison Rodeo." National Public Radio. April 17, 2008. Retrieved on March 12, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c McGaughy, Lauren. "Despite controversy, Angola Prison Rodeo lends inmates sense of freedom." The Times-Picayune. April 20, 2013. Updated April 21, 2013. Retrieved on October 8, 2013.
  4. ^ Schrift, p. 257.
  5. ^ a b "Angola Prison Rodeo in Louisiana." The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved on October 22, 2010.
  6. ^ Terry Gardner (April 2010), Angola Prison Rodeo, Cowboys & Indians, retrieved May 29, 2012
  7. ^ Schedule of Events, Angola Rodeo, retrieved May 29, 2012
  8. ^ Steven Phelps (April 2010), Angola Prison Blues, Cowboys & Indians, retrieved May 29, 2012
  9. ^ The Wildest Show in the South, Seventh Art Releasing, retrieved May 29, 2012
  10. ^ Rick Jervis (October 30, 2009), Prison rodeos provide escape from routine, USA Today, retrieved May 29, 2012
  11. ^ About, Angola Prison Horse Sale, retrieved May 29, 2012

External links[edit]