Off the Hill with Tricia Swenson: Helmut Fricker — Oktoberfest staple and master bookbinder
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One could say it’s Oktoberfest season in the Vail Valley right now. Beaver Creek just wrapped up its annual Labor Day Oktoberfest event and now the celebrations will move upvalley. Lionshead will host the oompah hoopla Friday through Sunday and Vail Village will accommodate this crowd favorite the following weekend.
One fixture that can be found at all of these events is Helmut Fricker.
The German-born entertainer has been creating an atmosphere of Bavarian fun since he got to town during the early days of Vail. He can yodel, play the alpenhorn as well as the accordion, and he can get even the most timid out on the dance floor to do the chicken dance. Smiling, telling jokes and fostering a good time for all ages is the business this man is in. But did you know that he also has a day job? In addition to being a beloved entertainer who has traveled the world, he is also a master bookbinder.
This octogenarian has a full studio in his home where he works on anything from old family bibles from the 17th century to creating something brand new, such as a guest book for a wedding. He tailor-made a book to house letters from locals and dignitaries to Betty Ford and also created several customized pieces for people around the word, all by word of mouth.
When Helmut Fricker was in middle school, the choice was to either go on to high school or learn a trade. He decided to learn the art of bookbinding. He studied as an apprentice for five years and became a master bookbinder in 1955.
The tools he uses are as old as the craft itself. He has various fonts and letters to guild a title or design a cover. Drawers of fabrics, leathers and papers are stocked to help make the book look like the original.
Visiting his studio is like taking a time machine back to the past. In a world where everything is so automated, it is fascinating to see true hand craftsmanship.
Hey, anyone who has their own bobble head must be a pretty big deal!