Can you name an annual festival weekend that opens with a Blue Ball followed by a Parade of Hearses, Coffin Racing and a Frozen T-Shirt Contest? Add in a Brain Freeze Contest, Icy Turkey Bowling, a Frozen Salmon Toss and Snowy Human Foosball and you have the makings of Frozen Dead Guy Days, an annual festival held in Nederland, Colorado.
Maureen and I decided to attend the Saturday events this year, making the short drive from our house up into the foothills, where Nederland sits at an elevation of just over 8,200 feet. In March, that can be a risky proposition – weather-wise – but we’re experiencing an unusually warm month this year and the forecast was for temperatures in the 60’s.
I’d heard about the festival, now in its 14th year, for some time, but never managed to experience it. Now we’re planning to make it an annual ritual. To say FDGD is a bit off the wall is an understatement. Like many festivals, the attendees played as much a part in setting the tone as did the official participants. There were plenty of ashen-faced, basically zombie-like folks walking around town as if it was just another day in beautiful Nederland. And as the crowd gathered for the ceremonial Parade of Hearses, the loudspeakers blared what seemed to be the festival’s official anthem: Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party,” followed by the likes of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.”
Coffin Racing followed in the afternoon, with teams of 6 pallbearers running around a snowy and muddy obstacle course carrying makeshift coffins containing one team member (the designated corpse?). The rules are fairly simple. Win your heat by getting all team members over the finish line first and you move on to the next heat. There’s a special award for the best FDGD spirit, so the costumes tend to be hilarious and the energy contagious.
Why Frozen Dead Guy Days? It’s a great story about how Bredo Morstol, locally known as Grandpa, ended up as a frozen corpse taking up residence in a Tuff Shed maintained at a steady negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The brief version goes like this.
Morstol, who lived his entire life in Norway, died from a heart condition while cross-country skiing in 1989. His grandson was an advocate of cryopreservation (freeze me now, in hopes of thawing me out when there’s a cure for what ails me – I know, it seems like he would have been too late) and packed Bredo in dry ice, flew him to the U.S. and spent four years searching for a place to keep his Grandpa. Well you guessed it. He ended up in a Tuff Shed at 8,200+ feet in Colorado. I’ve spared you from many of the fascinating details, so if you’re interested, I suggest you search online. There’s plenty to find, although the best site probably is the official festival site.
If you’re in the Denver area any March and are up for some quirky fun, make sure to add FDGD to your itinerary. Nederland is a small town, so there aren’t a lot of lodging options. Your best bet would be to stay in Boulder, although it’s an easy drive from anywhere around Denver. It’s a dead man’s party; who could ask for more?