Angola Prison Rodeo celebrates 50 years - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Angola Prison Rodeo celebrates 50 years

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It's not everyday you can talk face to face with a convicted murderer-- that is unless you are at the Angola Prison Rodeo.

 This year is the rodeo's 50th anniversary. 

At the rodeo, inmates become rough riders as they ride bucking broncos or angry bulls.  To some it seems sort of like the gladiators of ancient rome.  Yet, the inmates, most of whom are lifers, do so voluntarily.

One popular event is convict poker where four sit at a table as a raging bull charges.  Last one seated at the table wins.

They know they could get badly hurt or killed, yet they enjoy the adrenilin rush, glory and prize money if they win.

Another event involves inmates stand who stand motionless in hula hoops on the ground and see stay in the hoop the longest as a bull runs around and toward them.

Convict Milton Billiot, who's doing time for murder, did well in what they call the buddy pickup which clearly looks easier than it is.

He says he participates for fun and for prize money.  He's hoping to win about $150 with which he can buy better shoes and clothes. So how does he prepare to ride a bull?  

"You hold on real tight and ask God to keep you safe when you do it."

It was Phillip Higginbotham's first rodeo and he says the first day was rough.

"I got beat up in the shoot with a bull. He layed down on me a couple times, rolled over. He was going berserk," he says, looking at his wrapped foot.  

But Higgenbotham came back Sunday for more.

"I'm doing the bust out, bull ride, and pin ball and guts and glory.  Fun, entertainment, to make a few dollars,"said Higgenbotham.

The most popular of the events is called guts and glory where all contestants can compete to snatch a chit tied between the horns of the bull.  The winner gets $500.

You want the glory and you want the money, cause if you win, you get the money and you automatically get the glory if you win.

Longtime Warden Burl Cain says the inmates look forward to the rodeo and only the best behaved get to participate.

"It's incentive to do well, to be good, to behave you can come here.  We had an inmate who came here today and he was on some sort of drug.  He got to the gate, we caught him with that, he can't come back for three years." said Cain.

He says the inmates wear helmets and that safety is high priority.

"It costs a lot of money to go to the doctor, plus we don't want anyone hurt.  That's not what it's about.  It's a sport.  We do all in our power to keep them safe," said Cain.

Many of the inmates say they feel like they are giving back to the community when they ride.

Many people go to the angola rodeo for the huge sale of arts and crafts items made by the inmates.  More in part two Wednesday at 6 p.m. when we'll see some of their work and find out why they do it.

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