Roll Up! Roll Up!

By 
Alastair Baker
News Editor
Thursday, June 25, 2020
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Vickie Cooke gets a kiss from Pig Pen, an Alpaca at Dreamland Carnival.Photos by Alastair Baker

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Riley Cooke stands next to Brandy, one of the many miniature horses at Dreamland Carnival.

Just a short hop west of Bridger lies a land of enchantment for all ages called Dreamland Carnival, an amusement park and petting zoo. And what a carnival it is, proudly boasting 13 miniature horses along with donkeys, goats, rabbits, a couple of Alpacas, and an albino hedgehog called Spike.
Behind this venture is a 36-year veteran of carnivals, Riley Cooke who with his wife, Vickie, also founded two traveling carnivals; Dreamland Carnivals and North Star Amusements.
Riley’s blood has some mighty pedigree coursing through it as his father, Oscar Cooke, kick-started Oscar’s Dreamland Museum in 1968, near the Yellowstone River, south of Billings.  In his long life, Oscar amassed a collection of over 500 tractors, approximately 600 steam engines, and more than 5,000 antiques over 40 years. Those that went to Oscar’s Dreamland recall seeing three massive sheds containing either tractors or a mix of aircraft, cars, and other assorted items saved from the scrapyard.
Today Riley carries on the family trait, admitting that he too “likes machinery.”
The new amusement park enterprise came about because COVID-19 prevented the Cooke’s going out on the road with their carnivals. In fact, they were in Arizona in March when the Pandemic hit and had to immediately leave everything there. They hope to resume in early July.
So instead of being busy hauling their shows across Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Colorado. Arizona, and Texas, the team were stuck at base before deciding the break would be a good time to start finishing off a project that has been 14 years in the making; Dreamland Carnival amusement park and petting zoo.
With the help of their daughter Jenny, her husband Ryan, and adopted son James, the team has put together a stress reliever that befits these troubled times.
Need to escape, come right here. Simply walk in and hang out with the animals free of charge and pet them.
The venue fits with Riley’s philosophy of feeding your soul and doing that “with a smile of a child. You don’t do it for the money.”
The miniature horses, donkeys, and Alpacas live in colorfully painted stables acting as faux houses. There are two animals to each pen and each comes with a sizeable yard for them to move around in. The ‘homes’ face each other with a pathway lying between them to enable people to visit with each animal in turn.
There are other entertainments on offer such as a hayride and a wiggle train and a chance to feed goats through the mouths of a lion, tiger, and bear albeit painted on a wall.  There is even a human-sized hamster wheel that ingeniously helps you make your own Sno-cone.
Plans are afoot to install a nine-hole miniature golf course complete with obstacles and to run a 1950s carousel, adorned with painted horses, off a farm tractor engine.
The whole area runs to 4 acres and Riley plans to use every inch to create a world of excitement and fun for the visitor.
“I love children. We are their Disneyland for those children who aren’t going to get there while they are children.  These county fairs and these things are the Disneyland for 85 percent of America and I explain that to my help all the time; you need to understand this is their shot at an amusement ride,” said Riley.
Dreamland Carnival amusement park and petting zoo is free. Concessions are available and you can purchase food to feed the animals. The venue is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. at 29 Teesdale Lane, Bridger.