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Wildest Show in the South

Louisiana’s Angola Prison Rodeo Rides Through October.

by Amanda Burleigh

Fall is here and that means it’s time for the annual Angola Prison Rodeo at Louisiana State Penitentiary. The longest running prison rodeo in the country, the event started as a form of recreation for the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a.k.a. Angola, inmates and as entertainment for the prison employees and residents of the surrounding community located 59 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. As interest grew, the rodeo was opened to the general public in 1967 and has become one of the most popular events in Louisiana.

Held every Sunday in October, the Angola Prison Rodeo has been called “the wildest show in the South” and with good reason. Aside from the usual rodeo events, like barrel racing and bull riding, the rodeo has a variety of events that can’t be found anywhere else. One of the most dangerous is Convict Poker. This exhilarating event consists of four convicts sitting around a table “playing poker” when a bull is released and charges for them. The last one sitting is the winner!

Although all rodeo contestants and many of the workers are inmates, it is a professional production with professional judges and rodeo clowns. There is also a full staff of emergency personnel standing by at all times.

A large arts and crafts area also accompanies the rodeo. Along with an array of souvenir items, like T-shirts and mugs, a wide selection of handmade crafts, from jewelry to paintings and woodworks, were actually made by Angola inmates. Angola Prison strives to help inmates find their talents and use them, and throughout the prison grounds you’ll find examples of inmates’ art.

New to the rodeo this year is a horse sale, featuring, for the first time, some of the horses bred and raised on the prison grounds. Angola is a fully functional farm, and most of the food and products served and used at the prison are created within its walls.

Angola is the largest maximum security prison in the United States and houses roughly 5,000 inmates, 86 percent of whom are violent offenders, on 18,000 acres of land. Many of the roughly 1,800 staff members and their families live in an area known as the “B-Line” within the prison grounds. Although it is technically in a prison, the B-Line is hailed as one of the safest communities in the country.

Because of the increasing popularity of the annual fall rodeo, the Louisiana State Penitentiary has started a spring rodeo in April as well. So if you can’t make it this month, you no longer have to wait a full year to get in on the excitement.

The Angola Prison Rodeo runs every Sunday in October, and $10 tickets are available online. The crafts area opens at 9 a.m., with the rodeo beginning at 2 p.m. Concessions include food items like poboys, Frito pies, cracklins, boiled peanuts, candy apples, snowballs and more.

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