While we were approaching Nederland on a Saturday afternoon in mid-March, the shoulders were parked full of cars already a mile from town. We were in luck and found a spot at some auto repair shop’s yard, which was just a short walk from lakeside, where we could see people gathering.
On the way there, we were passed by a pale posse carrying a metal coffin.
A little further along we noticed spectators following a sport, where a colorful team was carrying a similar metal coffin, this time with someone in it.
We knew what was going on, but it was still hard to believe a festival like this was real. It’s a long story, and it begins when Norwegian Bredo Morstøl died from a heart condition while cross-country skiing in his native country. His grandson Trygve Bauge did not want to give up his grandfather and instead transported him to California, where the body was deep-freezed in a local cryonics facility.
After a couple years in California, Trygve together with his mother (and Bredo’s daughter) Aud transported grandpa to Nederland, where they were planning to build an earthquake-, bomb-, fire-, wind- and flood-proof home. Unfortunately Trygve’s visa expired and he was deported, so the home was never finished, and grandpa’s body was left laying in a shed behind the construction. When Aud was evicted – apparently it’s illegal in Nederland to live in a house without electricity or plumbing – grandpa’s future seemed more and more uncertain.
Aud contacted the press, and suddenly grandpa was an international news story. City council quickly prohibited keeping dead bodies on private property, but grandpa Bredo was “grandfathered” in and allowed to stay. A local radio station together with a Tuff Shed distributor decided to sponsor a new and better shed for grandpa, and Trygve hired a caretaker – “Ice Man” – to bring in dry ice.
Seven years later, in 2002, the town had gotten over its shock and was ready to see the humor in it. Someone got an idea to celebrate the town’s most known inhabitant, and Frozen Dead Guy Days was born.
At first, it looks like any other festival: tents, music, beer, lots of people in good spirits. Except other festivals don’t have frozen salmon tossing, frozen T-shirt or slushie drinking (Freeze Your Brain) competitions. I almost brought with me the left-over turkey from Thanksgiving that had been sitting in our freezer, so I could participate in frozen turkey bowling. Theme of the program seemed to be “anything dead or frozen, preferably both”.
Inside the tents, local craft breweries were selling beer, each at their own table. I thought I knew the local beer scene pretty well, but these breweries were so small I hadn’t even heard of half of them.
The festival goes on in every weather, and in March in Colorado, that can be anything from freezing cold and snowstorm to balmy almost-summer. Dress accordingly.
Frozen Dead Guy Days in March. There’s a festival bus from Boulder to Nederland, and it’s around an hour’s drive from Denver.