Dennis & Marilyn Wilder are 2023 May Festival Grand Marshals

Oroville couple well-known for their service to the community, both in Oroville and Tonasket

Dennis and Marilyn Wilder, this year’s May Festival Grand Marshals at home near Dennis’s vintage GMC truck.
Gary DeVon / staff photo

Dennis and Marilyn Wilder, this year’s May Festival Grand Marshals at home near Dennis’s vintage GMC truck. Gary DeVon / staff photo

OROVILLE — Dennis and Marilyn Wilder have been selected as this year’s May Festival Grand Marshals.

While Marilyn expressed surprise at being asked, she and Dennis say they are honored to be chosen. Both are well-known for their service to the community, both here and in Tonasket. While they grew up in Oroville, they ranched in Tonasket for several years and their sons, Kris and Corey attended school and graduated from Tonasket. The couple have been married for 63 years and have one grandson.

“We were born Hornets, but raised two Tigers,” they say.

While in Tonasket Dennis served for eight years on the Tonasket School Board. When they moved back to Oroville, Dennis owned a tire shop and Marilyn became famous for her hand thrown and pottery.

“Dennis made my pottery wheel and my kiln,” she said, adding that he later built the hothouse they use for their large garden.

Dennis served on the Oroville City Council for six years and Marilyn was chairman of the May Festival Committee for three years.

Perhaps the most memorable event that she added to the festival during those three years, was Apple Annie’s which converted the Old Oroville Depot into a cabaret for a few evenings.

“That’s what got us out of financial trouble. It was a great time for everyone,” she said.

They are both community minded working with streetscape and the food bank over the years.

“Probably the most important thing for Dennis and I is that we are thankful we live in the Okanogan Valley. The people here are wonderful,” said Marilyn.

“Over the years we have enjoyed a lot of what the valley has to offer, like fishing and skiing in the winter time,” said Dennis.

Since being ordained an Episcopal Priest in 2007 she no longer has time to do her pottery, but she and Dennis do find to plant a big garden each year.

“That’s what we eat during the winter,” he says.

Marilyn serves as a “part time” priest at Trinity Episcopal in Oroville and also works a couple days a week at another church in Tonasket.

When asked how she ended up being a priest, she said, “I really don’t know how it happened. It wasn’t a sure thing, but I’ve always been very connected with the church.”

The couple also owned the Alaska Way Hotel for 27 years a 19 unit apartment building.

“It was real learning experience. You had to know a lot about repairs and have a sense of humor,” they said.

Dennis said one of the things he is most proud of is having been a Mason, as were his brother and brother-in law. He has served as Master of the Aurora Lodge five times, he said.

Dennis has three siblings, all living in the area, Chuck, Dal and Mary Lou Peterson. Marilyn has two siblings, the late Fred Hardenburgh and the late Roberta Nelson Campbell.

The Wilders are a musical family, with Marilyn and Dennis joined by sister Mary Lou and brother and Dal in their band. Dennis’ brother Chuck is also known for his musical abilities, having performed with several local bands over the years.