Fritch to get Spirit of Betty Ford award |

Fritch to get Spirit of Betty Ford award

Daily Staff Report
Helen Fritch is one of the founders of Vail's Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

VAIL ” Helen Fritch, founder, longtime president and board member of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, will receive the first Spirit of Betty Ford Award.

Today, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens ” the highest botanical garden in the world, at 8,200 feet above sea level ” attract an estimated 50,000 visitors annually.

“To me, the spirit is all about Vail, caring for Vail, doing things to promote Vail,” Fritch says. “My biggest reward is watching the gardens grow.”

Fritch came to Vail from Illinois in 1974 with her husband, Bob, building the Sitzmark Lodge in Vail Village, which they still own and manage. She founded the Vail Alpine Garden Foundation in 1985 with her friend and fellow gardener, Marty Jones.

While Jones went to work designing a small Alpine Display Garden on land near the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, donated by the Vail Valley Foundation, Fritch organized a board of directors and raised “seed money” for bigger and better projects.

Betty Ford turned the first shovel for the larger Mountain Perennial Garden in the spring of 1988; the two gardens were formally dedicated to the former first lady on Aug. 11, 1989.

Fritch will receive her award at the gardens’ annual dinner and dance, which begins at 6 p.m., Aug. 6. Betty Ford and her husband, former president Gerald Ford, are expected to attend.

“Like Betty, Helen always has been an independent woman who strongly supports what she believes in,” says Jim Brandmeyer, the gardens’ executive director. “Helen’s spirit is invaluable. There simply wouldn’t be a Betty Ford Alpine Gardens without her.”

For more information, call 476-0103 or visit

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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