Helmut Fricker – The Master of Entertainment
“My hobby became my job, and my job is my hobby,” he said.
But he had gone a long way before he could feel the pleasure of a free choice and pursue his avocations.
Born in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1936, Fricker experienced the horrors of Hitler’s regime and war. His family home got destroyed. He lost his best friend and his pet cat. He hadn’t seen his dad, who was drafted into Hitler’s army in 1939, for five years.
“Our apartment got demolished during an Allied bombing attack on a nearby munitions plant,” he said. “We were trapped in the basement – buried alive – for two days, before rescuers broke through the wall of the adjoining apartment. I was six at that time and ever since I always appreciate the freedom to breathe and enjoy fresh air.”
That is why he chose Colorado as a place to live.
“I feel good surrounded by nature, ” he said. “Plus it is not too crowded. I can’t imagine living in a city.”
When asked what brought him to America, he answered “a plane,” cracking one of his abundant jokes, yet another hobby of Mr. Oktoberfest.
More serious reasons were freedom and opportunities his new home country created.
“I have always wanted to start my own bookbinding shop,” he said. “I knew there were very few hand bookbinders in the United States. I also felt I could get many jobs as a musician.”
Today he restores books worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and entertains audiences all over the United States with Bavarian music, playing the accordion and 11-feet-long Alp horn.
“Music and the craft of binding books are alike,” he said. “You have to have a “feel’ for either of them.”
Fricker began to play when he was 16.
“My father bought me an accordion,” he said. “He paid a lot of money for it so I had to start practising.”
Although he calls himself an entertainer, rather than a musician, and admits to never taking music lessons, he can definitely make his instruments talk. The loudest is, of course, his horn.
“Depending on weather, the sounds of my Texas long horn can be heard 2 miles away,” he said.
He established his first band when he was still living in Germany. His first musical attempt in America was founding the Denver Octoberfest.
“The fun part about that was I couldn’t speak English,” he said.
Five years ago, he brought Octoberfest to Vail.
“It’s the biggest party celebration in the world,” he said. “It started in 1810 as a wedding party of a Bavarian princess. Since people enjoyed it so much, the prince and princess decided to celebrate each anniversary of their marriage holding Oktoberfest. Now it attracts millions of people every year and it is held all over the world.”
According to Fricker, or Mr. Oktoberfest if you prefer, the aim of the event is to “drink beer, eat bratwurst with sauerkraut and dance the polka.”
Beaver Creek’s Oktoberfest kicks off on Saturday at 11 a.m. and will last through Sunday. It will be complemented with food and drinks, live music and many other activities, including a Bavarian costume contest. The Helmut Fricker Band and Bavarian Dancers, consisting of Ficker himself, three other musicians and two dancers, will give four performances, on Saturday and Sunday, at 12:45 p.m and 3:00 p.m. Be prepared for lots of joking.