It was a full-house this weekend at the Angola Prison Rodeo. This was evident when the inmates rode into the rodeo arena for the Grand Entry and a roar arose from the sell-out crowd of 7,500. Many were cheering for the bull riding and cow roping to come. Others were excited by the novelty of watching prisoners ride. There were even some that hollered for a loved-one that would be performing soon.
The program was filled with standard rodeo events. The most audible approval came during the bull-riding portion of the rodeo. The only thing to dim the excitement was an ooh that filled the air every time an inmate was thrown.
In between events, the crowd was entertained by simple sketch comedy perfomed by the rodeo clowns. At one point, a dilapidated Volkswagen was driven into the center of the arena and out of which 15 children emerged.
The climax for many came during the performance of The Wild Things. But then again, it is hard to top border collie-riding monkeys that herd sheep.
Outside of the arena were food booths and carnival games, the most popular of which was Dunk an Inmate. While all of that was appealing, the prisoner crafts made the three-hour drive worthwhile. For those that have never been, the scene is similar to the French Market, only all of the vendors are behind barbed-wire. The majority of the inmates sell the same, wooden chairs, wooden banks, or belts, so many of the vendors have tried to distinguish their products by painting popular cartoons onto their wood works. One of the more amusing works was a distorted pencil drawing of Diago, the title character of Nickelodeons Go, Diego. Go!
One prisoner who was having a tough time moving his merchandise resorted to pleading. Come over here and look at a bracelet, he yelled from behind the wire. Help me out to get out, folks. Im wrongfully accused, and I need to pay for a lawyer. It was a good enough plea to make a few people look at his pieces.
The Guys Behind the Fence made their return to the rodeo, and the prices for their paintings this year reflected their growing popularity. When one patron held up a painting of a magnolia blossom, the guys behind fence 42 yelled out, $60.
Those who walked by one belt-makers table were encouraged, Dont cheat yoself, treat yoself. This is the same sentiment I would express to anyone centemplating going. Its a hike to Angola, but you should treat yourself to experience unlike any other. Bryan Davis