It’s a given: If you’ve been to the Vail Valley more than once, you’ve seen Helmut Fricker. He’s a fixture in these parts and has been since 1974.
Donned in his lederhosen, accordion and alphorn in tow, Fricker seems to pop up just when you least expect, entertaining the masses with his arsenal of jokes, songs, yodeling and incredible jubilant attitude that brings joy to all within his reach!
Fricker and his family immigrated to the United States from Germany and were hosted by a family from Oklahoma, where they landed on July 3, 1969. As he once, jokingly, told a reporter, “ We saw parades and fireworks, and thought it was for us.”
Some time later, Fricker’s hosts brought the family to visit Denver. Fricker took one look at the glorious blue Colorado sky, the magnificent aspens and the breathtaking Rocky Mountains and decided, then, that he’d never leave.
Fricker grew up in war-torn Germany in the 1940s. His father had been taken from the family in 1939 and forced into the war. In 1942, he was listed as missing in action and presumed dead. But, the Americans captured him in 1945 and he spent five years in a Siberian concentration camp. In 1949 the family received a postcard with two words, “I’m alive.” In 1950, on New Year’s Day, Fricker was finally reunited with his father who, seemingly out of nowhere, walked in the front door of his home.
Although, in real life, Fricker is a master bookbinder, it is music that became his life’s passion after his father bought him an accordion when Fricker was sixteen. “My Dad bought it for fifty dollars and paid for it over a year,” he has said. “I taught myself to play as I didn’t have the money to take lessons.”
Over the years, Fricker has played for private parties – and for numerous celebrities including Dinah Shore, Sammy Davis Jr, Jackie Gleason, Jack Lemmon, Clint Eastwood and of course, Bob Hope and President and Mrs. Gerald R. Ford.
In Fricker’s world, everyday is Oktoberfest – a word that has come to mean “German party.” Certainly you can catch him any Vail, Beaver Creek or Lionshead Oktoberfest celebration – but Fricker doesn’t need a holiday to spread his joy! Many times you will see him meandering through a village and without any prompting, he’ll just break out in song. And if it’s raining or storming, there’s Helmut, entertaining on the town bus – telling jokes, or singing at the top of his lungs.
When the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships take place, it’s a guarantee that Fricker will be on hand yodeling, telling jokes and entertaining for all he’s worth. He’s Helmut Fricker. That’s what he does. It’s a given!