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By Molly McCowan
My family lives less than 100 feet away from a cryogenically frozen dead man in a Tuff Shed. When I was a little girl, my father would joke that the frozen man, “Grandpa” Bredo Morstoel, was watching over me while I was asleep.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well.
A Brief Introduction to the Festival
For those who haven’t been keeping up with weird holiday news, Frozen Dead Guy Days (FDGD) is an annual three-day festival that reanimates the sleepy mountain town of Nederland, Colorado every March.
Nederland is a tiny town (population 1,337) nestled in the peaks above Boulder that, over time, has become the proud home of many ex-city folk looking to get back to basics.
The annual FDGD festival celebrates the existence of one of the strangest members of the Nederland community – a frozen dead man in a Tuff shed who was grandfathered into the town municipal code over ten years ago (new laws don’t allow you to keep dead people in the backyard).
The festival (celebrating its tenth anniversary this month) includes everything from tours of the now-infamous Tuff shed and coffin races to frozen turkey bowling, a parade of hearses, and the infamous Blue-Ball on Friday night. It’s not to be missed by anyone who enjoys the strange and/or slightly macabre.
But how did Bredo Morstoel end up frozen in a Tuff shed in the first place? The story actually begins with his grandson, Trygve.
International Flights, a Shed, and Plenty of Dry Ice
Trygve Bauge (roughly pronounced ‘trig-vee bodge’) – Norwegian citizen and passionate believer in cryogenics – brought his grandfather’s body, packed on dry ice, with him to the United States in 1989. (Bredo had died of natural causes only a short time before he was frozen.)
The body was stored in liquid nitrogen at the Trans Time cryonics facility in San Leandro, California from 1990-1993.
In 1993, “Grandpa” Bredo was transferred back to dry ice, and Trygve moved him to a nondescript shed (the Tuff shed came later) in Nederland, where he and his mother Aud (pronounced ‘odd’) hoped to start a cryonics facility of their own.
And then the plan hit a snag.
Passionate about his opinions, Trygve liked to make his presence known, and, as such, he stepped on the toes of the “NedHeads” (an affectionate term for the locals) more than once.
As it turns out, Trygve was living in the U.S. on an expired visa, and his around-town antics weren’t exactly helping him keep his head down. He was deported from the country in 1994 and hasn’t set foot on U.S. soil since.
Aud (Trygve’s mother) continued living at the unfinished house, which was made of poured concrete and designed to be bomb, fire, earthquake and flood proof. (This isn’t exactly a homey place: It looks like a colorblind person’s LSD-induced vision of a post-apocalyptic castle.)
Shortly thereafter, however, Aud was evicted from the property after the “house” was condemned for lack of electricity or plumbing. She then spoke with a local reporter and went to the town council to express her concerns that her father’s body was going to “thaw out.”
Shockwaves spread throughout NedHead gossip circles like prairie fire, and the town hurriedly added a new section to its Town Municipal Code outlawing the keeping of dead bodies or parts of dead bodies on your property.
Grandpa Bredo was appropriately ‘grandfathered’ into this clause and allowed to keep cool in his shed.
Trygve (now operating from Norway) hired Bo Shaffer, CEO of Delta Tech – a local environmental company – to supply Grandpa with dry ice on a regular basis and keep him well frozen. The locals now know Bo as “The Iceman.”
So how did all of this lead into Nederland throwing a yearly bash to celebrate a frozen guy?
The Day of the Dead Guy
Well, friends, NedHeads are a lovely sort of people.
Nederland has always fostered creativity and community spirit, and its colorful residents aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves and the world around them. It was this invariable sense of humor that ultimately led to the town capitalizing on the frozen dead guy on their turf.
From an economic standpoint, Frozen Dead Guy Days offers much-needed income to local businesses like no other time throughout the year, and residents are happy to welcome the hoards of tourists that flock to participate. (Last year’s estimated attendance was over 10,000 – that’s roughly 7.5 times the town’s population.)
Perhaps most importantly, it’s a good excuse for a mid-winter party!
This Year’s Frozen Festivities
For those of you that have been enraptured and intrigued by my dead man tales, you’re in luck. The 2011 Frozen Dead Guy Days festival will happen for the 10th year in a row on March 4-6, firing up on Friday at 4pm with local brews and homegrown music in Chipeta Park. Here is a (very) partial list of events to see:
Friday, March 4
• 8pm: Grandpa’s Blue Ball – This dance-like-no-other also hosts the ever-popular Grandpa Look-Alike and Ice Queen competitions. This year’s theme? “Disco’s Not Dead, It’s Just Frozen.” (Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Costumes are optional but wildly encouraged.)
Saturday, March 5
• 12pm: Parade of Hearses – This is a sight not to be missed, especially by those who want to see some seriously interesting punk-rock hairstyles. (Classic parade entries from the past have also included a guy in a gorilla suit holding a fish on a leash, alpacas, Vikings and hearses equipped with flame throwers. That’s right, flame-throwing hearses.)
• 1pm: Polar Plunge – Watch brave souls jump, plunge, leap and/or somersault into a frozen pond in the park for charity. (This is another classic event, especially if the Norwegian television crews show up again this year.)
• 2pm: Coffin Races – This may be your only chance to see heavily costumed people trying to carry a coffin (with someone in it) over snow-covered obstacles. Tripping and pushing are fair game in this slippery race to the finish line, making this a true spectacle of mayhem in motion.
Other events throughout the weekend include frozen turkey bowling, a frozen t-shirt contest, a free pancake breakfast, and ice sculpting.
Brews from many local breweries, including Left Hand and Avery, will be readily available to those over 21 years of age. There will also be plenty of street vendors selling delicious food and souvenirs throughout the weekend.
90 minute tours to see the frozen dead guy (you might see me waving from the house next door) cost $30 and will run on Friday and Saturday.
So come join the NedHeads as we celebrate FDGD’s 10th anniversary on March 4-6. I’ll be the one dressed like the Bride of Frankenstein.
For more information or to buy advance tickets for the events, visit www.nederlandchamber.org.
*Photos courtesy of Molly McCowan, 2011*