Bonnyville bid farewell to a cornerstone in the local chuckwagon scene, the iconic rainbow wagon and its driver Rae Croteau Jr.
The third-generation driver retired after the Bonnyville Pro Rodeo and Chuckwagon Championship in July. Behind him, a 20-year career in the business with 17 years holding the reins.
Originally from Bonnyville, Croteau was born into wagon racing, following in the footsteps of his father, Bert, and grandfather, Ray. He left quite the impact on the sport over his years on the track.
In 2014, Croteau made his first trip to the GMC Rangeland Derby’s championship final. This was only the second time that three generations of the same family qualified for the race. His father Bert made the trip in 2004, and grandfather Rae in 1987.
Throughout his years in the business, Croteau won nine major show championships on the pro circuit, had four horses named to the WPCA Equine Award of Excellence and had one horse achieve the Calgary Stampede’s Equine Award of Excellence.
With locals following his career from day one, his farewell was a community affair. The rodeo grounds were packed as the three generations took one last ride in the rainbow wagon. Both the Bonnyville and chuckwagon community showed up to say their ‘goodbyes.’
“Being in our hometown, with all of the people in the crowd that were able to come to the show that have supported me over the years, I give kudos to the town and the crowds that come to the races,” Croteau said following his final run. “I’m proud of that, and I hope they’re proud of me.”
Selling his outfit and horses at the Calgary Stampede, the next chapter of Croteau’s life includes spending more time with his family, and on his new business, Big Rack Rentals, based in Sundre.