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Pat Sullivan, Associated Press
A crane digs into a pile of debris as the arena that for generations served as home to the Texas Prison Rodeo is demolished Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in Huntsville, Texas. Until it was stopped in the 1980s, the arena next to the Walls Unit prison drew thousands to Huntsville each weekend in October to watch inmates ride and rope like cowboys and be entertained by top musical acts.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Workers are demolishing a Texas prison rodeo arena that hosted many stars through the years.

The brick and concrete stadium on the grounds of the state's oldest prison has sit silent since its last rodeo in 1986. Engineers determined the structure in Huntsville was no longer safe, and prison system officials had limited resources for repairs.

For more than five decades, the site hosted a spectacle billed as "The Wildest Show Behind Bars."

The rodeo through the years featured a who's who of country singers from Roy Acuff in the 1950s to Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton in later years.

John Wayne and Steve McQueen made appearances. And in 1980, the John Travolta movie "Urban Cowboy" prominently featured the rodeo.

The demolition work is expected to be finished next month.