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Broncos and Boudin: The Angola Prison Rodeo

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Broncos and Boudin: The Angola Prison Rodeo

Broncos and Boudin: The Angola Prison Rodeo

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The Angola Prison Rodeo is this weekend. Convicts at the maximum security prison in Louisiana will be riding wild horses, while inmate organizations sell down-home Southern food. And that's this month's Hidden Kitchen. The Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson, producer Roman Mars call their story Broncos and Boudin.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible) the Angola Prison Rodeo.

Unidentified Man #2: The rodeo here is different from anywhere in the world, believe that. They're challenging those bulls like they're challenging a natural man.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Assistant Warden CATHY FONTENOT (Louisiana State Penitentiary): This rodeo idea started around 1964. The employees and inmates backing up pickup trucks in a field and they would go out there and play around on the horses. Now the arena seats over 10,000.

Unidentified Man #3 (Inmate, Louisiana State Penitentiary): Snack at the shack, when you're hungry come back.

Warden FONTENOT: I'm Cathy Fontenot, assistant warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola. We have about 43 inmate organizations that sell everything you'd expect to find in Louisiana, like cracklings and fried pickles and gumbo.

Unidentified Man #4: Get your gumbo.

Unidentified Man #3: The only bull that can't run, we've got him on a bun.

Warden FONTENOT: It really is a festive atmosphere. It's almost like you're walking through a midway.

Unidentified Man #3: Taste my barbeque sauce.

Warden FONTENOT: The only thing is you realize that these are murderers, robbers and rapists.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #5: And next to us is the Pentecostal Fellowship. And there's the Brother A.J. The sell crawfish etouffee and the also sell chicken-on-a-stick, which is a very big seller.

Warden FONTENOT: It's just a little desk that you would walk up to and place your order and there's an inmate right there taking your order. Of course, the inmates can't handle any money, any currency. So there's a free person, an off-duty correctional officer, who's taking your money.

Mr. FRANKLIN GREEN (Inmate, Louisiana State Penitentiary): We're making chicken-on-a-stick with mushrooms and onions. They sell like hot cakes. My name is Franklin Green. I've been here, going on 24 years. I was sentenced to life on a drug charge. Since I've come here I've given my life to the Lord. We have a saying in Angola that you can be in Angola, but Angola doesn't have to be in you.

(Soundbite of music)

Warden FONTENOT: Angola is legend to have been a name that they got from an area where slaves had originally been sent from, Angola, Africa. The prison was a tobacco and cotton plantation and then became a slave breeding ground.

It's an agricultural prison. We still do cotton and we hand-pick corn. Rolling green pastures, 18,000 acres. You could fit Manhattan inside of it.

Warden BURL CAIN (Louisiana State Penitentiary): I'm Burl Cain. I'm the warden here at Louisiana State Penitentiary. All the inmate clubs and organizations have the concessions - boudin balls, shrimp on a stick, sausage po-boys, and those crawfish we raise in the pond. And we have frog legs we catch out of the ponds. And so we don't buy any of this stuff. It's all Angola. It's all inmates.

Mr. DONALD HARVEY VALARE (Inmate, Louisiana State Penitentiary): This is the Tornado Potato. It's more fascinating to watch than it is to really eat. I'm Donald Harvey Valare. I've been down 22 years and I have a life sentence. A guy had a baseball bat, I had a pistol. And, well, the pistol won. I was a former professional jockey. I'm a boxer now. And an inmate. That's me. What's left of me.

Unidentified Man #6: (Unintelligible) don't stop. (Unintelligible) there's snow cones and popcorn. Lifers Association, mens that are serving life sentences. Right now lifers in Louisiana do not have a parole eligibility. I've done been here 40 years. I'm here for 80.

Warden FONTENOT: Angola is a lifer's prison. It's a prison where people come to stay. It's sometimes referred to as the Alcatraz of the south, because of its all-natural borders.

(Soundbite of music)

Warden BURL: We're inside the rodeo arena. Rodeo is as traditional to America as apple pie.

Unidentified Man #7: It's definitely the wildest show in the South. Up here it's anything goes. So you just hang on for eight seconds. Most guys have never seen an animal before and they ride.

Unidentified Man #8: You've got a bull that comes out there. You get the token of the day and you pick up $100. A hundred dollars is a lot of money in a place where you get $.04 an hour.

(Soundbite of applause)

Unidentified Man #9: You know, all rodeos are going to have injuries.

Unidentified Man #10: Yeah, I mean, I don't worry about him. He's my boy, too.

Unidentified Man #9: I'm their daddy. They didn't have one. I don't want to see them hurt. It's not pleasurable.

Mr. ISRAEL DUCREE (Inmate, Louisiana State Penitentiary): My name is Israel Ducree. I had enough of that. Bulls broke my leg. I have a rod in my leg. My mom she worried every time I ride. I gave it up for her really. I promised her that, you know, once I won it at the 2003 rodeo I would give it up.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. RICKY WESTFALL (Inmate, Louisiana State Penitentiary): My name is Ricky Westfall. And I'm from North Louisiana and I've been here for 28 years. Around my house, if you didn't know how to cook you was in trouble. And I can cook basically anything. My mama taught me how to do that and I give her credit for it.

I was the only person in my family of six children that ever got arrested. I'm the only person in the Westfall family that's ever been arrested. I was going with a girl and she and I had an argument, fight, and I didn't kill her. They arrested me for kidnapping. So that's why I'm here with a life sentence.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CLYDE DWAYNE RICHARD (Inmate, Louisiana State Penitentiary): (Rapping) All right. One potato, two potato, three potato, three potato, four potato, your potato, my potato.

My name's Clyde Dwayne Richard. I am known as Angola's Potato Man. I'm taking a big old potato and chopping it down the middle, and smothering it down with butter, crawfish, shrimp, and then a boudin. You've got things here that you can't find in society.

(Soundbite of music)

I'm from North Louisiana. My plan is to open a potato shack. And I think my family is going to help me — my mom and my wife.

(Soundbite of applause and cheering)

Warden FONTENOT: At the time of the hurricane, I really like much of culture in terms of our food and our music would be lost. As we had that first rodeo just two months after Katrina and Rita struck, the smells, the tastes were still alive at Angola through the wild rodeo show. It's ironic that the inmates are preserving culture from prison. So much of our culture had not been lost, because so much of our culture happens to be in a maximum security prison.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: Hidden Kitchens is produced by the Kitchen Sisters. You can see pictures of the Angola Prison Rodeo on

(Soundbite of music)

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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