“I’m going to finish it where it all started, Bonnyville.” Rae Croteau Jr has confirmed he is retiring from the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) after 18 years driving on the circuit. “it’s time for a change.”
“It’s great, but the sport needs to evolve a little; change so it can grow,” Croteau says there wasn’t one particular element in the WPCA that made him want to retire; it was a shift in focus stemming from starting a new business recently. “I started a business in Sundre and changed my focus a little bit. Something with the potential of creating money, instead of just getting by.” Croteau’s new business, Big Rack Rentals, rents big equipment, midsized hand tools, skid steers, aerial lifts, etc. If you’re in the Sundre area and are in need of equipment rentals check Big Rack Rentals online.
It’s well-known in the wagon world that you really have to love it to be in it. Outfits typically make enough money to pay out their outriders, farmhands and feed the horses. If you’re lucky you have enough for gas money to get from town to town, and a little left over for yourself. Drivers rely on sponsorship money, tarp auctions, and winning races to keep going. Along with weekend championship money, drivers make day money for winning individual night races. The Calgary Stampede is the biggest money-maker for the year with a $100,000 grand prize.
“I’m in it to win-it! It’s our last kick at ‘er. Just like every other year you give it your best.” Croteau says even though he’s selling his outfit on the famous Calgary Stampede auction, which closes out the world-renown rodeo on July 17th. “I’ve been at the Calgary Stampede 29 years, since I was 5.” As a third generation Chuckwagon driver, Croteau grew up on the circuit, learning the ropes from his father and grandfather.
If you’re looking to sell your outfit, Calgary is where you do it. Croteau is confident his outfit and horses will sell, “I’ll sell out the Sunday in Calgary, then I’ll come to Bonnyville. Borrow some horses and finish it off where it all started.”
The Croteau family will continue to be involved in the horse and rodeo life, “it’s a big part of our lives, so we’ll continue with the kids, trick riding & roping and the western lifestyle.” On the Croteau farm in Sundre is a huge state-of-the-art riding arena where his daughter, Cora (12) nephew, Cooper (14) and family friend, Avery (13) practice for their team, Young Gunz Trick Riding. “They have a new act, it’s pretty cool. They roam and ride, jump over jumps, splitting fire. It’s a step up, as they get a little older, they can do a little more [for the] wow-factor.”
Croteau says there’s too many great memories from childhood, and driving to ever be able to pick one. What he’ll carry with him is family, “it’s the whole package, growing up in the sport, meeting all the other families and outriding. Getting to travel everywhere and getting to meet people. People who are in [WPCA] understand it and become addicted to it, just like the rest of us.”
My favourite part of the whole sport is the family & the horses. – Rae Croteau Jr WPCA Chuckwagon Driver
The Bonnyville Pro Rodeo & Chuckwagon weekend is July 21-25th. You can purchase tickets online or by visiting the Centennial Centre in Bonnyville.