About This Festival
Frozen Dead Guy Days is one of the most delightfully quirky and unlikely of festivals. Every March, thousands of revelers gather to celebrate the story of Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, a Norwegian who died in 1989, with an array of icy events and off-the-wall contests—frozen salmon tosses, coffin races and polar plunges among them—fueled by lots of cold beer in downtown Nederland, a town of 1,227 residents at 8,230 feet high in the Rocky Mountains.
Frozen Dead Guy Days - Body at Rest, Bodies in Motion
The bizarre lore behind Grandpa Bredo sparked the three-day festival, which has been held annually since 2000. The saga began when Grandpa Bredo's family decided after his death at age 89 to preserve the body in dry ice and ship it to a cryonics facility in the U.S.
He rested there in liquid nitrogen until grandson Trygve Bauge had the body moved to Nederland to be with him and his mother, Aud Morstoel. They planned to start a cryonics facility with Grandpa Bredo as their first member, hoping that future technology would lead to corpse “re-animation” and cures for what ailed them.
However, obstacles loomed. First, Aud had to leave her house because, lacking plumbing and electricity, it violated local ordinances. She abandoned plans for the cryonics business and moved back to Norway.
Then there was the matter of a municipal code that banned the “keeping of bodies” on private property, which threatened Grandpa Bredo's icy existence. Aud pleaded to the Nederland City Council to amend the law, making Grandpa Bredo's corpse an exception. They agreed and the frozen body was “grandfathered” in, allowing it to remain in Nederland.
Meanwhile, grandson Trygve, who was keeping Grandpa Bredo in a shed near his home, encountered visa trouble and was deported back to Norway, threatening the iced corpse with being stuck in unfrozen limbo.
A local man, Bo Shaffer, stepped forward as caretaker. He and a team of local “cryonicists” kept the corpse in its deeply chilled state, hauling 1,600 pounds of dry ice to the backyard Tuff Shed (which has helped sponsor the caretaker program) and packing it around the body, maintaining it at a stable -60 degrees F.
Local and national media picked up on the story and Grandpa Bredo became a sensation, sparking the chamber of commerce's Frozen Dead Guy Days festival idea in 2002 to draw more visitors to the small mountain town.
Rocky Mountain Setting
Nederland, which got its name from a Dutch mining company that bought a local mine in 1873, has long been known for its quirkiness and eccentric characters. Until the recent legalization of the use of recreational marijuana statewide, Nederland was one of the few places in Colorado where marijuana was legal for recreational use (with seven medical marijuana dispensaries operating in 2010, for a population of under 1,500).
Meanwhile, caretakers continue to keep Grandpa Bredo's body surrounded by dry ice, padding and blankets, an endeavor that's inspired award-winning documentaries and loads of press attention worldwide.
Frozen Dead Guy Festival Events
People come from all over the country and even from around the world—including representatives of cryonics organizations—for Frozen Dead Guy Days frat-party atmosphere of beer drinking and zaniness. Among the wacky events are a parade of hearses in downtown Nederland, a macabre Frozen Dead Guy look-alike contest, shivering jumps into icy ponds, frozen salmon tosses, frozen T-shirt contests and ice-y turkey bowling.
The festival, now run by a private company, is tweaked each year and events are often dropped or added but several frigid traditions are mainstays, including the costumed plunge in an ice water pond, coffin races and the parade of hearses. Participation in the plunge, unlimited beer and tours of the Tuff Shed where Grandpa Bredo's corpse lies are offered to those who purchase special VIP tickets to the event. Otherwise, the festival is free.
On noon on Saturdays the coffin race takes place, in which teams carrying coffins of a “corpse” of a team member rush to race each other on an snowy, often icy course. The race requires early registration for participation because of its popularity. The frozen T-shirt contest involve four-person teams, who don shirts chilled to an icy crispness 72 hours before the event, and dance two rounds of the can-can to compete for prizes.
In between the parades, competitions and races, there's plenty of live music, food and drinking at beer stands under large festival tens.
One of the big much-anticipated events is the Saturday night “Blue Ball” featuring live music, an Ice Queen pageant and ghoulish Grandpa Bredo look-alike contest.