A Decade of Bull
10th Annual Castle Rock Bull Riding & Bull Challenge
Originating in 2013 with a simple desire “to get together with some good old cowboys and buck some bulls,” Ty Rinaldo of TZ Bucking Bulls hit the decade mark in 2022 with his 10th Annual Castle Rock Bull Riding & Bull Challenge competition on Saturday Feb. 12. Two bull riding performances (2 p.m. and 7 p.m.) boasted a total of 100-plus bull riders and filled the 2,000 seat indoor arena at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock, Colo. Those big crowds showed why pre-event ticket sales were the best the event has ever recorded in its 10-year run.
“I’m ecstatic,” said event producer Ty Rinaldo about the crowd size and energy after the Saturday afternoon performance was complete. “I’m very pleased with the crowd today and we will have a bigger one tonight.”
While bull riding competitions are not uncommon, Rinaldo’s brainchild adds something different to the mix. The former bull rider and TZ Bucking Bulls owner created the contest to not only reward bull riders; he also wanted to emphasize the stock contractors with a separate competition and payouts. As a result, the bull team format is promoted as a major part of the contest.
In 2022’s event, organizers stated 33 stock contractors entered teams of three bulls each. While bull riders were scored for qualified rides, every single bull was scored on its own whether a cowboy stayed aboard or not. The total points scored from a contractor’s three bull team determined whether they finished in the top six bull teams and received a payout. With over $25,000 up for grabs by both bull riders and stock contractors, along with buckles and bragging rights for a whole year, the friendly rivalry behind the chutes was described as intense.
“I think there is more competition between the contractors and their three bull teams then there is the riders and who is going to win the riding pot,” said Brent Meyer, one of the judges for the event. Meyer has been a judge in all 10 Castle Rock contests and is intimately familiar with how it all runs. “There are two pots. There is the bull competition pot for the contractors and you know they like to bet on their bulls. Then there is obviously the rider pot. It is a typical bull riding with a little bit of a twist (and it) gives some extra incentive for these contractors to bring their decent bulls to get them seen, get them rode, and even get them sold.”
“I try to really stress the bull team format,” added Rinaldo on the topic. “Because every bull riding you go to, it is always the riders competing against the other riders and the bulls just get hired to go to the event. And this deal here, the bull owners are paying an entry fee just like the riders.”
Having a conversation with the TZ Bucking Bulls owner between Saturday performances, it was clear his experience as both a bull rider and a stock contractor gave him the necessary perspective to set up the popular Castle Rock Bull Riding event.
“The stock contractors will win over $6,000 for the No. 1 team,” said Rinaldo about the payouts. “The bull riders receive a little less (about $2,400 for the top bull rider) and I do that on purpose. These bull riders, there are four of them in a van and they split gas and split a hotel. I used to do it, so I am not criticizing them,” he said with a laugh. “But these stock contractors, which I am now, it is expensive. You are feeding these bulls 12-15 pounds of grain a day and they eat all the hay they can eat. The travel, the fuel, the trucks and trailers, it is extremely expensive.”
COMPETITION WITH A TWIST
Creating a bull riding format with a twist has paid off in 10 years of steadily increasing popularity.
“Ty (Rinaldo) does such a great job of getting everybody on board,” said Meyers about the enthusiastic community response ranging from numerous sponsors to the full 2,000-seat indoor arena for both performances. “It has gotten bigger and bigger every year with the vendors, with the fans, and with the contractors. My first year (in 2013) I think there were 86 bulls, give or take, and then it went to 90-some bulls and now we are at 100-plus bulls. It is two full performances. You won’t go to an open bull riding and see 50 bulls in one performance, ever. You might see a 40-head bull riding, but you don’t see a 50-head bull riding, let alone two in one day.”
As the full grandstands emptied to the tune of “Happy Trails to You” and Willie Nelson crooning “You Are Always On My Mind” after the Saturday afternoon performance, Rinaldo reflected on how the bull riding and bull team challenge’s origin did not originally include the thought of selling tickets.
“You know, when I came here to put on the first one, I talked to the managers at the Douglas County Fairgrounds and I said, ‘Hey, I am just looking for a place to buck some bulls. What would you charge us to come in and buck some bulls?’ We figured it all out and they said why don’t you sell tickets? And I’m like, ‘No. No – No – No,’” he said with a smile. “I just want to get together with some good old cowboys and buck some bulls and make a few little bets. ‘Hey, I bet my bulls will buck harder than yours.’ That is what you do when you compete. But they talked me into selling tickets and I had no idea how it would go, and it has just grown each year.”
Judging by the sponsor and spectator response to 2022’s 10th Annual Castle Rock Bull Riding & Bull Challenge, it should be safe to assume another decade of bull is ready to stampede through the Douglas County Fairgrounds each and every February in the town of Castle Rock.
Bull Team Winner:
Tanya Marchiol – 209.3 points with three bulls including “Lets Go Brandon” and “Slingin’ BB’s”
Bull Riding Champion:
Dalton Willis – 90 point bull ride on TZ Ranch Bucking Bulls’ “Omaha Beach”
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