Angola Prison 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. 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.
As part of the prison rodeo, there is a biannual Arts and Crafts Festival. 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."
The idea of the rodeo was born in 1964. The Rodeo, a collaboration between prisoners and prison employees, began in 1965. 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." Both horses and cattle are bred and raised at the prison. The horses are used by trustees to supervise field work, and the cattle are raised for sale as beef.
In 1967 LSP opened the Rodeo to outside spectators. Over the years, 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.
Inmate Jack Favor, a former rodeo star from Texas, worked to establish the rodeo. He was wrongly convicted of two murders in Bossier Parish and sentenced to life at Angola. He sought to instill self-discipline in the prisoners and formed a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Prison authorities permitted Favor to travel across the state to promote the event. Favor earmarked funds raised through the rodeo to finance emergency trips for inmates, under guard.
- Grand Entry - Angola Rough Riders enter the arena at full gallop and colors are presented.
- 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.
- Bareback Riding - Riders are expected to keep one hand in the air, and must stay on the horse for eight seconds to qualify.
- Wild Horse Race - Six untrained 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.
- Barrel Racing - This is the only event in which inmates do not participate. It is a tour stop for The Girls' Rodeo Association. Contestants race their horse in a pattern among three barrels. The fastest time wins.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bull Riding - This dangerous event is what the fans come to see. Inmates try to stay 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.
- Convict Poker - Four inmate cowboys sit at a table in the middle of the arena playing a game of poker. A bull is released with the sole purpose of unseating the poker players. The last man remaining seated is the winner.
- 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.
Additional points of interest
- The Angola Prison Rodeo also includes an Arts and Crafts show, complete with concessions; all are produced by inmates.
- Writer/Director Jeff Smith entered the 2008 Jackson Hole Film Festival with his film Six Seconds of Freedom about the rodeo."
- 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.
- 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."
- In 2010 the Angola Prison Horse Sale was held along with the rodeo. It is the sale of horses bred and trained at the prison by inmates.
- Schrift, Melissa. "Angola Prison Art: Captivity, Creativity, and Consumerism," The Journal of American Folklore. Vol. 119, No. 473, Summer, 2006. pp. 257-274. 10.1353/jaf.2006.0035. Available at Jstor; Available at Highbeam Research; Available at Project Muse.
- "Time in Prison." Archived 2012-10-23 at WebCite Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections. 34/40. Retrieved on September 23, 2010.
- *The Kitchen Sisters. "Broncos and Boudin: The Angola Prison Rodeo." National Public Radio. April 17, 2008. Retrieved on March 12, 2011.
- 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.
- Schrift, p. 257.
- "Angola Prison Rodeo in Louisiana." The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved on October 22, 2010.
- "Not Guilty" (PDF). Cowboys for Christ. October 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
- Fredda Jones (February 3, 2012). "I Remember Jack Favor: From Rodeo Cowboy To Prison Stripes". Blog: Texans United. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
- Gardner, Terry (April 2010). "Angola Prison Rodeo". Cowboys & Indians. Archived from the original on March 28, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
- Schedule of Events, Angola Rodeo, retrieved May 29, 2012
- Steven Phelps (April 2010), Angola Prison Blues, Cowboys & Indians, April 2010; retrieved May 29, 2012
- The Wildest Show in the South, Seventh Art Releasing, retrieved May 29, 2012
- Rick Jervis (October 30, 2009), "Prison rodeos provide escape from routine", USA Today, retrieved May 29, 2012
- About, Angola Prison Horse Sale, retrieved May 29, 2012