Bizarre foods, like turtle and alligator pastalaya, prepared by the inmates were offered to guests with adventurous taste buds at the Angola Prison Rodeo.
The prison grounds were covered with booths containing any type of food you can imagine, even the tasty but horrifying to your health, fried coke. With the majority of food being fried, one booth had a sign that said, “We Fry Everything. Fried Snickers. Fried Oatmeal Pies. Dorito Fried Chicken Breast Fingers.”
Every Sunday in October, and one weekend in April, the Louisiana State Penitentiary puts on a rodeo. Also known as Angola Prison, these daring inmates attract people from not only Louisiana, but also Texas, Arkansas, and other nearby states. This year the April rodeo occurred Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17.
At Angola, there are no gangs. There are different groups and clubs that unite men together based on their past lives, interest
s, and religions. Some of these groups love to cook, and they have food booths with their group’s name on it, like the Philanthropy Club who made the turtle and gator pastalaya.
“[Angola] used to be the bloodiest prison in the United States,” said Bob Long, a front gate visitation guard. Long also said inmates used to sleep with magazines strapped around their bodies because the scare of being stabbed. Now, the inmates are more comfortable and they mostly trust each other.
When you think of Angola, and what these criminals did to get themselves in there, it is somewhat terrifying. But the rodeo makes people forget about all that. A lot of inmates get to have a good time outside of the actual prison with their loved ones.
The convicts volunteer to do various rodeo activities, like inmate pinball and inmate poker. Inmate pinball is each man stands inside of a hula-hoop and tries not to move as an enraged bull is released. Inmate poker is exactly what it sounds like, a several inmates sit around a red plastic table and pretend to play poker while a bull charges at them. Last man standing wins.
“They don’t learn, they just get on the bull,” Long said.
Of course, there are classic rodeo activities, like bull riding and cattle chasing. But the crowd pleasers are the events that Angola created. Another one is the chariot race. One inmate is pulled by a horse on a sled going fast pace while trying not to spill Kool-Aid.
There is even a live band of inmates playing rodeo sounds in the arena. They call themselves: Angola Rodeo Guts & Glory Band.
Before the rodeo begins, the inmates have a chance to show off their arts and crafts. The prisoners have hobbies they get to pursue at nights when their work hours are finished for the day, and on weekends, Long said.
They turn their hobbies into items to sell to attendees of the rodeo. Each prisoner has his own ability he takes pride in, like carpentry, sewing, leather manufacture, and many other makings.
Walking around the crafts area, you see various paintings of Louisiana landscapes, animals, people, and other different scenes. Additional items for sale include cypress chests and rocking chairs amongst other wooden objects, like lamps, decorative toy trucks and clocks.
The rodeo is the only source of income for the prisoners, Long said. They use the money they receive from their sales to buy supplies to continue pursuing these resourceful hobbies, and send money to their loved ones.
“I support myself through the rodeo,” said Rodney “Pa-bon” Gilbo, creator of extravagant 18-wheeler trucks carved out of wood.