In the town of Nederland, nestled in the Barker Meadow Reservoir Mountains of oil-laden Boulder County, a man whom residents call “Grandpa” lies in a cryogenically frozen state, lovingly tended to by a man who refers to himself as the Ice Man.
While this probably sounds like fodder for nightmares, Grandpa’s cryogenic journey bestowed on Nederland is not only a fascinating tale, but a fabulously eccentric festival as well. Kicking off March 13, Frozen Dead Guy Days offers a unique experience brimming with food and drink, bizarre competitions, and performances by more than 20 bands.
“I would say it fits very Nederland very well—I’m not sure it would fit anywhere else,” event coordinator Amanda MacDonald said of Frozen Dead Guy Days (FDGD). “Not everyone loves being known for the frozen dead guy; they thought that was weird. But, as time has gone by, it’s kind of become an affectionate kind of thing. It’s very unique and it helps Nederland stand out.”
Before delving into this goldmine of oddities, it’s probably important to meet the “Frozen Dead Guy” behind the festivities. “Grandpa” Bredo Morstoel died from a heart condition after a satisfying life of skiing, fishing and hiking in the Norwegian Baerum County, where he directed parks and recreation for more than 30 years.
Ardent cryogenics enthusiasts, Grandpa Bredo’s daughter Aud Morstoel and grandson Trygve Bauge opted to have his body frozen in liquid nitrogen and moved to Nederland in 1993, where the family hoped to establish their own cryogenics facility. Though Grandpa Bredo’s final resting place — a frozen sarcophagus in a Tuff shed — was okay’d by the city council, a municipal code regarding the “keeping of bodies” put the kibosh on any future plans for frozen residence-after-death.
Visa issues and eviction eventually sent Aud and Trygve back to Norway in the mid-90s, but the family has since enlisted Bo “Ice Man” Shaffer to make sure Grandpa Bredo’s frosty tomb is replenished with nearly a ton of dry ice each month.
If that isn’t a cause for celebration, I can’t imagine what is. Apparently, the city of Nederland agreed. Hoping to bring more business and recognition to the small mountain town, Nederland has hosted an annual festival in Mr. Morstoel’s honor for the past 13 years.
The festival elects unusual methods for commemorating the town’s dearly-(kind-of)-departed honorary Grandpa, but Bauge isn’t one to shy away from non-traditional end-of-life practices.
“[Bauge] has been relatively supportive over the years for sure,” MacDonald said. “He wants the world to know about cryogenics, he believes in it… He actually wanted to make a cryogenics facility in Nederland. At first I thought that was so wacky, but the one in California has done very well and there’s certainly a good amount of people that believe in the technology.”
If this totally bizarre story has yet to entice you into the dead-guy festivities, here are four reasons you won’t want to miss Frozen Dead Guy Days:
It’s delightfully macabre.
With its roster of mortuary-centric events and competitions, FDGD celebrants seem to prefer a less delicate approach to paying their respects to the dead.
Whether scurrying to gather candy from the event’s parade of decorated hearses, trumping classic poetry in the Dead Poet Slam, or hauling souped-up “caskets” through the street for the coffin race, a light-hearted sense of humor towards the inevitable seems to be a common theme at Frozen Dead Guy Days.
“[The festival] does bring up the whole question of mortality; we’ve kind of ventured into making it okay to talk about death,” said Amanda MacDonald, the festival’s coordinator. “We had this woman who brought up the point that, just like talking about sex doesn’t make you pregnant, talking about death doesn’t make you dead. We take a lighthearted prospective on it, but it certainly does bring up the question and the conversation.”
Speaking of the dead…
You get a second chance at Halloween.
Zombie garb is encouraged. In fact, all kinds of costumes are encouraged. Notable costumes from past years have included a ghastly crew of undead pirates, a herd of larger-than-life hot dogs and what appears to be mangled victims of a bear mauling.
The schedule of events even includes an “Ice Queen and Grandpa” look-alike competition, which draws contestants decked in icy and often beautifully intricate interpretations of both winter and cryogenic royalty.
You can even dress up to jump into a frozen lake in the costume polar plunge, if that’s what strikes your fancy. If that does strike your fancy, you are in for some good news…
FDGD makes the best of bad weather.
Snow or sleet, rain or shine, the festival goes on. True to the spirit of frozen, cryogenic life after death—and the state of Colorado for that matter—FDGD doesn’t shirk away from freezing your butt off in the name of fun. The festival hosts a variety of competitions to test your endurance such as the brain freeze contest, frozen t-shirt contest and a chilling costumed polar plunge.
Or perhaps you’re especially talented at lobbing frozen meat further than everyone else. If that’s the case, FDGD has not one, but two contests just for you: ice turkey bowling and the frozen salmon toss, both of which are pretty self-explanatory.
New to this year’s schedule of events is human Foosball. Much like the table-top format, human Foosball teams are stuck to massive pipes at different positions throughout the life-size soccer field. Though participation costs $30 per team, all proceeds from the events will be donated to local charities.
There will be more music than you can shake your cold, dead fist at.
The event’s two stage tents — ReAnimate Yourself Tent and Brain Freezer Tent – will host a variety of bands from both in-state and afar.
Some of this year’s acts include Bob Dylan cover band The Zimmermans, alt-country band Gasoline Lollipops—“soundtrack of the American highway that give fuel and speed to your journey,” and Strange Americans, which The Marquee described as “a little raw, a bit loud, unapologetic and honest”:
It’s the kind of music that the Carhartt-wearing, hard-working, industrial beer-drinking, regular Americans would listen to.
For more information about Frozen Dead Guy Days and to see a comprehensive list of music and events, please visit www.frozendeadguydays.org.