The Angola Prison Rodeo is a wondrous thing. Although many of our friends here in New Orleans have heard of the infamous rodeo, we discovered that none of them had actually ventured to Angola to witness it. Bobby and I went together and had a lot of fun, and have been almost every year since. This October, we hope to bring our tot with us!
When you first drive into the grounds of Angola, you’ll see signs to tune your car radio to the prison’s channel. A booming voice tells you a bunch of interesting facts about the prison, starting each fact with “Did you know…?” We got a kick out of it and often quote it randomly to make each other laugh. And the facts really are interesting! For example, did you know that Angola sits on 18,000 acres of farmland, and inmates grow their own food? The scary information about Angola, like those I found here, are not included in your welcoming ride. A not-so-fun fact for a blogger is that cameras aren’t allowed at the rodeo. Dang.
There are booths where you can purchase food and drinks once you park and enter the rodeo grounds. There are zero healthy options, so if you’re a stickler to health foods or have food intolerances, make sure you eat before arriving. You can have funnel cake, ice cream, fried oreos, frozen slushies, and a variety of other fried junk. Hooray! And ouch my stomach hurts just thinking about it.
If you don’t want to watch the rodeo, you can purchase a ticket just to get into the grounds and see all the goods for sale. The inmates make and sell their woodwork, furniture, paintings, jewelry, and all kinds of knick knacks and tchotchkes. So far I have purchased a leather keychain with my name engraved on it, a pair of silver Spongebob earrings, a beautiful wooden secret box (where you have to take the box apart like a puzzle in order to open it), and a cute guitar bookend. The real prize items seem to be the very impressive paintings and patio furniture. There are perfectly whittled and stained gliders, rocking chairs, dining room sets, and we even saw an intricate working grandfather clock for sale on one visit.
I know this is a little voyeuristic of me, but I find it fascinating to speak with the inmates. I also find it really great that they have this opportunity a few times a year to spend quality time with their families and friends who visit. Many of the prisoners mill about amongst all the paying customers, hanging out by their goods in case anyone wants to purchase something. And then you walk into the covered area of the fair and see long lines of fence. Inmates are on the other side of the fence, open to bargaining with you. I couldn’t help but wonder if these men had done most atrocious acts and couldn’t be amongst everyone else. It’s pretty intimidating. Bobby was bold enough to ask flat out why some inmates had to stay behind a fence. The man he asked said, “Well, most people here are guilty of bad things like murder, but a lot of us are not guilty, like me. Wrongfully accused. The guys behind the fence are new or got in trouble so they haven’t gained the trust to come out here.” So, there you have it.
And now for the main event – the rodeo! If you’ve never been to a rodeo before, then you need to see it for yourself. If you have been, this one has some fun tricks up its sleeve that you don’t want to miss. There are monkeys that ride on dogs! There are amazing horseback stunts! There are bull games where inmates compete to be the last one sitting at a poker table with a bull charging at them! It’s fun and silly and outrageous and entertaining. We like to sit right up in the dirt around the perimeter of the ring, where usually little kids have seats. That way you can really feel a part of the action and get some dirt on your cowboy boots.
After our first rodeo, we hung behind in the parking field so we would miss all the traffic leaving. We eventually got kicked out by a guard on a four-wheeler, but before that happened we enjoyed sitting in the grass, watching the cows in the distance. That’s when we took these cute photos. Then, after leaving in our car, we followed a sign on the side of the road that said “Waterfalls”. I’m happy we did this, because it led us to a wooded trail that did indeed have lovely waterfalls. I’d like to pack some hiking clothes next time so we can spend longer exploring the forest. There were also some farm animals on the road to the trailhead. Awesome.
Tickets for the Angola Rodeo are on sale now for each Sunday in October. They also hold the event one weekend in April each year. We hope to see you there!