40 Years of Guts & Glory
The Angola Rodeo, the longest running prison rodeo in the nation, got its start in 1965. The first arena was small, built by a handful of dedicated inmates and personnel. It wasn't much in those days, and the rodeo was stages just for the entertainment of prisoners and employees. But it was fun.
The 1967 rodeo was opened to the general public on a limited basis. There were no stands. Spectators had to sit on apple crates and the hoods of their cars to watch the performance.
The success on the 1967 and 1968 rodeos prompted constructions of a 4,500 seat arena for the 1969 rodeo. A near disaster occurred when the bleachers collapsed during one of the shows. Spectators weren't alarmed, most didn't even get up. They sat on the collapsed structure and continued to watch. The 1971 rodeo was the wettest in history, but the show went on.
As years passed, the rodeo grew in size, adding events and sponsorships. The official Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules were adopted in 1972 and the rodeo became a permanent fixture.
In 1997, spectator capacity was expanded by 1000 seats and construction of a roof over the seating area began to provide increased comfort for spectators under Louisiana's blazing sun. Hobbycraft space was also expanded to the point where it is no longer just a little concession area on the side for some inmate organizations to make a few bucks. It is now an all day, full blown arts and crafts festival, complete with entertainment and food galore. The arts and crafts festival begins at 9 a.m. and continues throughout the rodeo which begins at 2 p.m. each Sunday in October. Many fans come to the rodeo for the arts and crafts show alone.
What began 40 years ago as a "fun" thing by a handful of rodeo loving inmates and employees is now big business. Proceeds from the Angola Prison Rodeo cover rodeo expenses and supplement the Louisiana State Penitentiary Inmate Welfare Fund which provides for inmate educational and recreational supplies.
There is widespread recognition today about the Angola Prison Rodeo which was formally established in 1964.
To clearly define goals and objectives of the Angola Prison Rodeo, the 2003 Angola Prison Rodeo Committee created a Charter, and amended it in March 2006. This Charter demonstrates the Angola Prison Rodeo Committee's commitment to stewardship of any proceeds derived from the productions of the Angola Prison Rodeo.
It is assumed that the rodeo was initially established to provide a source of recreation for the inmate populations as well as to provide a source of entertainment for employees of the Louisiana State Penitentiary and the immediate surrounding community. Eventually, the Angola Prison was expanded to include spectators from the general public.
Recognizing the potential for the growth of this unique event, since the 1995 rodeo season the Angola Prison Rodeo Committee has strived to provide a professional rodeo production which would prove beneficial to the internal inmate economy, but would also be beneficial to the Parish of West Feliciana tourism industry. Soliciting help and cooperation form the inmate populations provided an important mechanism to protect and improve the quality of the Angola Prison Rodeo, both economically and environmentally.
The objective of the Angola Prison Rodeo remains to provide the prison population at Louisiana State Penitentiary with an opportunity for positive behavior changes.
- Grand Entry-Angola Rough Riders enter the arena at full gallop and colors are presented.
- Bust out-All six chutes open simultaneously, releasing 6 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 8 seconds to qualify.
- 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.
- Barrel Racing-This is the only event in which inmates do not participate. It is a tour stop for The Girl's Rodeo Association.
- 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 win the prize.
- Bull Riding-This dangerous and wide open event is what the fans come to see. Inexperienced inmate 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's rules govern this event.
- Convict Poker-Four inmate cowboys sit at a table in the middle of the arena playing a friendly game of poker. Suddenly, a wild 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 the meanest, toughest Brahma bull available. The object is to get close enough to the bull in order to snatch the chit. This is the last event of the day, and perhaps the most exciting.