When Rae Croteau says “this isn’t his first rodeo,” he means it quite literally. After 18 years of chuckwagon racing at the highest level, the 11-time show champion and Alberta business owner recently retired his reins to focus on his family and Big Rack Rentals stores that double as U-Haul neighborhood dealerships.
Every Day is a Rodeo
“My dad and grandfather began racing in the 1960s, and I’ve been in the sport since I was knee-high to a grasshopper,” Croteau says. “I competed in the Calgary Stampede 17 years in a row. In 2013, I made it to the final race. I was 2014 GMC Series champion and set 4-5 track records during my career. Chuckwagon racing can be dangerous if things go wrong, but it’s kind of like riding a bike to me.”
Retiring from competition doesn’t mean life is decelerating for this 34-year-old cowboy. Daughters Cora, 11, and Ava, 8, are following in their father’s rodeo footsteps.
Croteau, who owns a farm with a riding range, hosts an annual rodeo for children 14-and-under. They are just getting introduced to barrel racing, rope tying, pole bending and even perform gymnastics on the back of horses – Cora’s specialty.
“I spent a lot of time running up and down highways to go to competitions, meeting sponsors, looking for advertisers and meeting fans,” Croteau says. “I still have my passion for rodeos, but I have more time for my family.”
U-Haul Enhances Business
Croteau has time for other families as well. Namely, those who are renting U-Haul trucks and trailers for moves in and out of Sundre, where Croteau’s farm and the original Big Rack Rentals is located, and Olds, where his second store just opened. Croteau contacted U-Haul about becoming a neighborhood dealer when he realized there was a need in the communities he served and a lack of dealers in the immediate vicinity. Both locations added U-Haul rentals in 2016.
Visit Big Rack Rentals in Sundre at 1101 Main Ave. E. or call (403) 638-5347. In Olds, the address is 6214 46 St. E. and the number is (403) 556-1505.
“That’s the little extra advantage you get through U-Haul; it helps draw people in to see what you have,” Croteau says. “The business has honestly taken off. We started with 2-3 U-Haul units the first month in Sundre. Now we have 15 units here. Then we opened another rental store a half-hour to the east. Olds has a smaller city-centre feel, and there’s a college. Between the two locations, we can easily have 20 to 30 units at a time.”
Meeting Many Needs
Big Rack Rentals is named for the unmistakable white-tailed buck and old deer antlers displayed in the stores. Croteau’s selection of rental products features everything from pumps, packers, skid steers and aerial lifts to a full line of farming equipment, including plows and tillers. If folks need trees trimmed or their properties cleaned, Big Rack Rentals can tackle that, too.
As good as U-Haul has been for Big Rack Rentals, Croteau has made an equally positive impression on U-Haul customers and management. His identity as a chuckwagon racing star doesn’t hurt, either.
“He’s the true essence of a genuine cowboy – he wears the type of belt buckle that you could take off and use as a shield,” says Vern Jardine, U-Haul Company of Southern Alberta president.
“Chuckwagon racing and the Calgary Stampede are a pretty big deal here in Canada. There are guys who die doing this. It’s a hard sport to do and amazing to watch. But aside from that, he’s a real friendly fella. He’s doing well for himself and for U-Haul, and he’s supporting the towns that he’s in.”