A wild time at the Angola Prison Rodeo

April 25, 2013 9:00 AM

Benton Oliver

Even the most vivid description I could give you of the Angola Prison Rodeo couldn’t convey the strange combination of dichotomous qualities that make the longest-running prison rodeo in existence so compelling. It’s staged in a prison, yet family oriented. Violent, yet with overtly Christian messages. Bizarre, yet charming.

Angola Prison Rodeo

The biggest crowd-pleaser of the Angola Prison Rodeo involves  Capuchin monkeys riding on dogs’ backs and corralling goats into a miniature pen. (Photo from ThinkStock)

The field trip by the Reily Center's Outdoor Recreation Program began with a sleepy two-and-a half-hour bus ride on Sunday (April 21) from the Tulane uptown campus. We arrived at the state penitentiary in Angola, La., at around 12:40 p.m. and were shuttled from our bus toward the gleaming mass of razor wire that bounds Angola Prison.

Upon submitting to a surprisingly cursory security process, we were granted entry into the hubbub of the all-day event, of which the rodeo comprised but two hours.

This tumult of activity is half the reason so many fans made the journey. There were many food vendors, all somehow affiliated with the prison or its inmates, who offered such novel selections as fried Coca Cola and freshly made chips from homegrown potatoes. Amid all this, some of the more artistic inmates held a sale of wares they’ve handcrafted throughout the year; many of the inmates stood by their work right behind a fence and were generally friendly.

The rodeo itself was a lively show of wild horse riding, bull riding and calf wrangling. Several inmate participants were injured and were carried away on stretchers.

Surprisingly, the biggest crowd-pleaser of the event was three Capuchin monkeys riding on dogs’ backs and corralling several goats into a miniature pen. Following this performance was a heartfelt speech given by their owner about following one’s dreams.

Proceeds from the Angola Prison Rodeo cover expenses of the event and supplement the Louisiana State Penitentiary Inmate Welfare Fund that provides educational and recreational supplies for inmates.

Benton Oliver is a junior at Tulane majoring in communication and music.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu