Being from New Orleans, I never really experienced rodeos or any professional bull riding type events first hand. However, every year around October there is a slight buzz in the air about the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana (and NO I am not referring to the buzz of the infamous electric chair, Gruesome Gertie)!The Angola Prison Rodeo is an annual event located on the grounds of the Louisiana State Penitentiary commonly known as “The Farm.” The rodeo is held every Sunday during October and one weekend in April and is worth the drive.
So, why should it be on everyone’s bucket list – especially if you live in Louisiana? Well, after experiencing it, here are my top reasons:
The Rodeo Itself
The rodeo is comprised of many different events including the familiar bull riding as well as numerous unexpected entertaining events. What is unique is that the majority of the events are run and participated in by the inmates themselves. These inmates have no experience, but volunteer to participate for both prizes and “glory.” In total, the inmates participate in about 10 events including: The Grand Entry (Seen Left), Bust Out, Bareback Riding, Wild Horse Race, Bull-Dogging, Inmate Pinball, Chariot Races, Wild Cow Milking, Bull Riding, Convict Poker, & Guts and Glory.
There are several other events that are run by and participated by professionals such as barrel racing by women competing on the professional tour. Plus you may get a chance to see some professional trick riders or a motorcycle daredevil. For the safety of the inmates and the entertainment of the onlookers, there are also professional rodeo clowns running around and adding friendly banter with the announcer.
The Arts & Craft Show
Before entering the Rodeo, I recommend getting there at least an hour early to explore the outdoor arts and craft show. There are paintings, leather goods, jewelry, woodwork, and even beautiful wooden furniture like handmade rocking chairs. Many stalls are selling items made by the convicts themselves. It’s a unique experience as you walk around the outdoor stalls. If you decide you want to buy something, you get a purchase ticket from an inmate and take it to the cashier. Then return with your purchase receipt and can return your item to your car. At first you may seem a bit put off as you walk amid some free roaming inmates and others behind a metal fence. However, you soon relax as you explore the beauty of their handiwork.I am learning about the Biggest Prison Rodeo in the United States! #AngolaPrisonRodeo Click To Tweet
Don’t go to the prison rodeo expecting to eat anything healthy. But do expect to enjoy the smells and flavors of some of the best fair/rodeo food in the world! From gigantic smoked turkey legs to bowls of jambalaya to tamales and much more, you can find nearly anything your heart desires (and clog it up) while you eat at this event.
The highlight…DEEP FRIED COKE. That is right, I said it, DEEP FRIED COCA COLA!! Essentially, what they do is take coca cola and add it to a batter mixture. Then they drop the batter ball into a deep fryer and viola, you have DEEP FRIED COKE! Then they serve you several of the Fried Coke Balls in a cup, cover it with powdered sugar and whip cream and drop a cherry on top. It tastes like a coke infused beignet or perhaps a funnel cake ball for you folk outside of Louisiana, just sweeter.
Ok so “the Farm” doesn’t have any direct neighbors but St. Francisville is about 20 minutes away. St. Francisville is a popular tourist destination, with a number of restored historic plantations open daily for tours, including Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site, Audubon State Historic Site, Butler Greenwood Plantation, The Haunted Myrtles Plantation, as well as several antebellum gardens. Since the rodeo is on Sunday, why not make a weekend of it by showing up on Friday night and staying in one of St. Francisville’s beautiful Bed and Breakfasts, explore the plantations on Saturday, and then end your weekend at the Angola Rodeo on Sunday before heading home.
Another thing to do Sunday morning before getting to the rodeo is to explore the hidden Tunica Falls between St. Francisville and Angola. Clark Creek Natural Area, sometimes referred to as Tunica Falls, is a natural haven for bird watching, hiking, photography, botanizing and nature lovers. There are two trails you can take to reach the falls: the primitive trail or the improved pea graveled trail. It should take you about 2 hours if you take the improved trail.
The Angola Prison Rodeo is truly not to be missed. It has a little something for everyone – rodeo lovers, comedy/live entertainment aficionados, foodies and art collectors alike will enjoy the event. The rodeo is also kid friendly – so the whole family can come!