Documentary featuring bull rider Ty Rinaldo premiering in Grand Junction

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 4:21 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - For many people, Ty Rinaldo is known as one of the best in the bull riding world. Now, a new documentary is premiering in Grand Junction giving us an up close look at the former bull riding champion.

Rinaldo rode bulls in high school and even was awarded a college scholarship for the sport that he loves.

“I don’t know, I may not have even gone to college had it not been for bull riding,” said Rinaldo. “So I went to college and did well and into the pros. But careers as a bull rider doesn’t last very long. When your match is 1,800 pounds of muscle and you’re 150 pounds of skin and bone, when you get hurt, most of the time it’s pretty bad.”

Rinaldo retired in 1993 after getting injured in a rodeo in Delta while riding a bull named Johnny Rotten.

“He knocked a lot of guys out and a lot of guys wouldn’t ride him,” said Rinaldo. “He was dangerous and he got a lot of guys.”

After his retirement, Rinaldo got into judging riding events and became a stock contractor for bull riding. To this day he takes his bulls all over the nation for different events and he even coaches riding.

“I’m kind of the coach of the bulls and they’re tremendous athletes,” said Rinaldo. “We treat them that way. They’re on a feed regimen, we work them out, we tune them up from time to time. We work hard with them and hopefully it shows.”

Rinaldo grew up on the Western Slope. He attended Central High School where he met classmate and filmmaker, Don Cardona. Cardona’s interest in film started in high school, while taking a creative writing class.

“When I was in high school I made a short film in creative writing class to avoid writing the assignment,” said Cardona. “My dad had bought a video camera and I played with it and some of the guys in my class said ‘lets make a movie’ so I approached the teacher and asked if we could do that and he said, I’ll let you do it and if it’s bad you’ll still have to write it. It turned out good and they showed it in front of the school.

After college, Cardona began a career in broadcasting, even working for KJCT in Grand Junction. Eventually he would move away and started working in sports broadcasting, which is how he became interested in bull riding.

“I had shot bull riding when I was shortly out of college as a camera man on one of the ESPN shows I was working on and I just became a fan of bull riding,” said Cardona. It was so intense and very risk taking and I just thought these guys were nuts, they’re crazy. So I kind of became a casual fan over the years and would watch it on tv.”

Eventually Cardona made his way back to Colorado, where he reconnected with Rinaldo and asked if he could film him and his bulls.

“Don’s deal started out as a couple of months,” said Rinaldo. “He said ‘Hey can I come follow you around for a couple months?’ I said ‘oh heck yeah’ and it ended up being over two years. He just did a great job.”

Cardona started filming in 2018, intending on making short little clips for social media platforms. But after shooting several events he ended up having a lot more footage than he anticipated.

“I never was really intending to make a documentary out of it,” said Cardona. “I was just going to do some clips to put on social media and COVID hit and by the time I put it together, it turned into a feature length documentary.”

Cardona said he had some reservations and expectations of what he would find while filming, but said spending time with Rinaldo and other bull riders, opened his eyes to how the animals were treated.

“The thing that I think I learned the most from shooting this, is how well-respected these bulls are and how expensive they are,” said Cardona. “Each one of them has their own personalities and I saw that. One of them I fed a cookie to which was really kind of cool and the other ones you just had to be careful just being around them.”

That respect and sense of how these animals are individuals is something that Cardona and Rinaldo both said they hope people realize while watching the film.

“I mean when you go to a rodeo, you think that the bulls are just brought from the sail barn or wherever they are,” said Rinaldo. “But they are like race horses. They have a mom that was a bucking cow a dad that was a bucking bull and the blood lines and the pedigrees and the feeding programs. I mean it’s huge. They have to be well taken care of. They’re like our pets. They’re big pets with horns, but we treat them like a dog or a cat.”

Cardona entered his film in the Wild Ranch Film Festival in Arizona, where it won all eight awards it was nominated for, including Best Documentary and Best Cinematography.

“He’d say ‘Can I come load you filming the bulls’ and all that and I’d say ‘oh yeah come on out.’” said Rinaldo. “Loading the bulls takes about 30 seconds. It was funny, he’d be up on the trailer filming the bulls with his camera and is recording stuff and that would take a while to get it all set up and then he would accidentally miss the sound part of it and say ‘Hey can you guys unload those bulls? I didn’t have the sound on and load them back.’ so a 30 second task took you 15 minutes.”

Now, Cardona’s film is getting ready to premiere Saturday, May 20, 2022 at the Avalon Theater in downtown Grand Junction.

“I’m really excited, I’m a little nervous about the turnout and how people will respond,” said Cardona. “I just want people to have a good time and just come and meet Ty and just share stories about rodeo and film making and Grand Junction and everything. So yeah, I hope it’s a good time.”

“Buckin‘ bulls: the Story of Ty Rinaldo” premieres at the Avalon Theater, with the red carpet event at 6:00 pm followed by the film and a Q and A session.

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