Louisiana’s Angola Prison Rodeo marks 50 years

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“It makes me feel like somebody,” he said, just before the rodeo started. “You come to Angola with a life sentence; you don’t feel like a person anymore. You’re a nobody. This gives me a chance to be somebody again, to entertain the people and just have fun.”

Rodeo categories include bareback horse riding, wild horse roping and bull riding. There are comical categories such as “convict poker,” in which a bull is released while inmates sit at a table in the arena. The last man seated is the winner.

While the crowd’s applause is the main thrill of the rodeo, others relish the chance to see family.

“Makes you feel like you ain’t in prison,” said Joseph Ward, surrounded by relatives before he participated in an event that features two inmates riding bareback on a galloping horse.

Ward said the rodeo is an opportunity “to show everybody that, hey look, I’m a prisoner but I’m not a bad person. I made a mistake.”

Ward, 31, is serving two 40-year sentences and a 20-year sentence for manslaughter, kidnapping and robbery convictions stemming from a drug-related incident when he was 17, he said.

Monique Wagner, a resident of nearby Woodville and a rodeo regular, she enjoys perusing the paintings, wooden rocking chairs, leather goods, jewelry and other crafts made by the inmates.

“They’re still human beings,” Monique Wagner said as she peeled a boiled crawfish and popped the tail in her mouth.

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