NEDERLAND, Colo. -
The mountain town of Nederland may be the quirkiest village in Colorado, or maybe the nation.
It seems to have more tattoos than Sturgis, more body piercings than an acupuncture college and brighter hair colors than the autumn leaves in New England.
A sign at a crosswalk says “Nedestrian Crossing.”If the town had an official song it would be loud laughter, and their official tree would be an over-sized hemp plant.
Nederlanders are always up for a good time, and last weekend they shared it with visitors from across the country.
The event was their 13th annual Frozen Dead Guy Days, where the Colorado town that’s left of Boulder on a map, and even more so politically, celebrates exactly that – their very own frozen dead guy.
For about 25 years Bredo Morstoel has been packed in ice in a Nederland shed. Bredo, affectionately known to locals as “grandpa” was born, lived and died in Norway. Hoping for the day when cryonics could bring the now 114-year-old back to life, his family in Nederland had his body shipped to Colorado. There, they kept him deeply-chilled.
Well, eventually the family in Nederland got deported leaving poor grandpa behind. National news crews descended on the unique mountain town, the government said poor grandpa had to be buried or cremated. Locals became involved in a debate about “the rights of the temporarily dead” and, well, Nederland still has a corpse packed in dry ice and a reason to party every March.
Since my wife, Kathy, spent most of her school years in Nederland, we’ve followed the events of grandpa and Frozen Dead Guy Days. Last weekend we attended for the first, but probably not the last, time.
We got there early enough Friday for Kathy to make a few runs on nearby Lake Eldora’s ski slopes, while I walked the few streets, had a few brews, some great barbecue and watched the town change.
By dark traffic on the streets and sidewalk had more than doubled since noon. Many came in costumes with a comical macabre theme, plus the amazing assortment of, well, “unique” characters such a weird event seems to attract.
The event got its official start that evening with the annual Blue Ball, where bands played, people danced, and beer flowed while an unofficial costumed king and queen of the event were named.
Over the next two days was a parade that may have more participants than spectators, including those planning on participating in events…and oh, are there some events for those who love having fun.
The Costume Polar Plunge had people paying $20 to take a dressed up dip into a hole in the ice of a pond in a downtown park. An hour or so later six-person pallbearer teams, often in theme costumes, carried a living “corpse” in designer coffins around an obstacle course.
Meanwhile, on the main drag people were bowling with frozen turkeys to knock down the pins. There was also a frozen t-shirt contest, a brain-freeze contest for those downing slushy drinks, a frozen salmon toss and a snowy beach volleyball tournament.
Frozen Dead Guy Days is obviously a big deal to Nederland businesses, giving them a serious shot of income before the quieter time between winter ski and summer tourist seasons. Much of the proceeds also go to local public service groups, like the fire department.
We certainly didn’t see it all, nor did we hear all the assorted live music from about 20 bands. But one thing we also didn’t see were any fights or even any serious arguments.
“Dude, bad place to stand, we can’t see,” at the Polar Plunge was about as hot as things got. (“Dude,” by the way, smiled and knelt down in the snow.)
Meanwhile, up in a shed, grandpa Bredo rests at about 100 or so degrees below zero, waiting for the day when science can bring him back to life.
Imagine the celebration if in some decade to come he is able to lead the parade for the event that’s held annually in his honor?
Until then, every March more and more people will gather at a small, quirky mountain town to celebrate the death of a man they never met, by getting as much as they can out of life for at least one weekend.