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 staged 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 performances.
The success of the 1967 and 1968 rodeos prompted construction 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.
The Angola Prison Rodeo is a professionally produced rodeo. Angola contracts with professional rodeo stock contractors to provide the rodeo stock used in events; professional judges are contracted with to objectively judge each event. In addition, to ensure inmate participant safety, professional rodeo clowns are always present in the arena during events. A full complement of emergency services personnel are on-site to provide medical assistance to inmates and spectators.
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 October 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.
Ticket, concession, and hobbycraft sales for the next two years broke all records, prompting the administration to build another arena. Construction began on the new stadium in April 2000 and increased capacity to 7,500. The new stadium was completed for the first rodeo in 2000.
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.
Angola Prison Rodeo Charter
There is widespread recognition today about the Angola Prison Rodeo which was formally established in 1964.
To clearly define the goals and objectives of the Angola Prison Rodeo, the 2003 Angola Prison Rodeo Committee created this 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 production of the Angola Prison Rodeo.
It is assumed that the Angola Prison Rodeo was initially established to provide a source of recreation for the inmate population 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 from the inmate population provided an important mechanism to protect and improve the quality of the Angola Prison Rodeo—both economically and environmentally.
At the conclusion of a hugely successful 2001 rodeo season, the Angola Prison Rodeo Committee demonstrated its commitment to promote a primary goal of the Louisiana State Penitentiary—rehabilitation. Accepting the prison’s strategy to enhance rehabilitative efforts by providing inmates housed at Louisiana State Penitentiary with an environment that enables positive behavior changes, the Rodeo Committee voted to dedicate proceeds (after expenses) from the 2001 rodeo to the construction of an interfaith chapel at Angola’s Camp-D housing unit.
The objective of the Angola Prison Rodeo remains to provide the prison population at Louisiana State Penitentiary with an opportunity for positive behavior changes.
The Angola Prison Rodeo Committee is committed to further develop the Angola Prison Rodeo event, taking into consideration the efficient and responsible use of resources. Proceeds shall be used to further develop the arena facilities to provide a safe environment for the inmates and spectators. Any additional rodeo fund proceeds will be dedicated to the future construction of chapels at Louisiana State Penitentiary and other Louisiana state prisons. Additional funds may also be donated to other worthy causes, including the Inmate Welfare Fund at Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Management of the Angola Rodeo Fund shall be vested in and exercised by a Rodeo Committee of not less than seven (7) and no more than thirty-four (34) members selected by the Warden. The Angola Prison Rodeo Committee (“the Committee”) is comprised of a variety of individuals who assist in the development and production of the Angola Prison Rodeo.
The Angola Prison Rodeo Committee will have the authority to alter the terms of this Charter, subject to majority vote of the Committee.
In carrying out its purposes and functions, the Committee shall not engage in any activities other than those which are exclusively for the purpose stated herein and will never allow or permit any part of net proceeds of the Angola Rodeo Fund to inure in whole or in part to the benefit of any member of the Committee. Members of the Committee shall serve without compensation for such service.
The Warden of Louisiana State Penitentiary serves as the Committee Chairman and will appoint an Executive Board who will be charged with the management of all affairs of the Committee and will be duly authorized to conduct all business of the Committee.
All management affairs administering the Angola Rodeo Fund shall be conducted in accordance with applicable state laws, rules and regulations. Actions of the Executive Board shall be reported at the next meeting of the Committee.