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Wilders provide hamburgers and hot dogs at tennis matches

Tailgate tradition started in 2000s


Ian Wilder talks with a parent while his son Watch presides over the grill, and hungry athletes, Bradley Wilder, background left, and Aiden Derr, right fix up their burgers. - Jacob Wagner photo

Ian Wilder competed at the state level in tennis for the Coulee Dam Beavers in 1964. Now, he serves hamburgers and hot dogs at the same courts to the home team and visiting teams alike, free of charge, out of the generosity of his spirit.

Wilder humbly says he does it "just to support the kids."

"There are three reasons why people like to come to Grand Coulee to play," said Raider Head Coach Steve Archer at a home match against Oroville last Thursday. "One is the caliber of our team giving good competition, the other is we have the best courts in the league, and the third is because Ian Wilder serves hamburgers and hot dogs. He opens up his heart to feed everybody."

Raiders and opposing players alike gather around the barbecue set up near Wilder's red truck in the parking lot facing the courts. Wilder shoots the breeze with community members, asking if they want some hamburgers or hot dogs, while he or one of his sons work the grill.

The tailgating tradition started in the early 2000s, when Wilder's son, Spusman "Spus" Wilder, played tennis for the Lake Roosevelt Raiders.

"It's Ian Wilder, it's that guy," Spus says about how the tradition started. "He just likes doing it, thinks it's fun. A fun way to spend time with friends, family, and the community. He played tennis in high school. He probably wishes his dad did something like this for him, but at least he can do it for his grandsons and nephews."

Another of Ian's sons, Watch Wilder, has two children who both played tennis for LR: Corbin, who has since graduated, and Bradley, who is a senior this year.

In addition to often being joined by his sons as well as other family members, Wilder's wife, Darlene, joins him in the tennis tailgating tradition.

Darlene joked that she must have knitted 100s of baskets, ranging in size from big to small, while sitting in their vehicle at tennis matches.

"It's good to see the visitors have something to eat," Darlene said.

The Wilders often go to away games as well as home games, and athletes and others in attendance are always happy to see them, grab a bite, and enjoy each others' company.

The Wilders bring all the fixin's with them: lettuce, pickles, onions, tomatoes, mustard, ketchup, and more, and the area around their truck and grill has become a part of the culture surrounding LR tennis.

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