Here’s the bare bones version. Frozen Dead Guy Days is a festival happening this weekend (from March 10th – 12th) in the ever-quirky Boulder County town of Nederland that will celebrate a perpetually frozen man housed in a dry ice-packed sarcophagus within a Tuff Shed in the hills just outside of town. And by perpetually, I mean he’s been there since 1993. This festival is not only real, but has grown to become a cultural phenomenon that celebrates both a deceased town icon and the crazy, kooky creativity of the Boulder County mountain region.
Now let’s unpack this a bit.
If your first question was how (and why) a frozen man remains in a shed in the hills of Nederland, the answer in short is cryonics. The field of cryonics is, in a nutshell, the science of using extremely cold temperatures to preserve life with the purpose of restoring that person back to life and health when the technology becomes available to do so in the as-yet-to-be-determined future.
If the field of cryonics sounds like science fiction, it’s probably because that’s where the theory got its start. Robert Ettinger, credited as the founder of cryonics, began the first Cryonics Institute in Michigan after being inspired by a science fiction story in the 1960s. You’ve also likely seen echoes of the theory throughout pop culture in one form or another (Han Solo frozen in carbonite, anyone?). From Austin Powers being cryogenically frozen only to wake up in the 1990s to the urban legend that Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen after his death, the world of cryonics was and is still very much alive.
Our very own town of Nederland here in Boulder County is host to their own cryogenically frozen resident, and it’s his lasting legacy (and potential future reinvigoration) that Frozen Dead Guy Days celebrates each and every year. Bredo Morstoel, now referred to as “Grandpa Bredo,” died of a heart condition in 1989 in Norway. With a daughter and grandson who themselves were cryonics devotees living in Nederland, instead of being buried upon his death, Grandpa Bredo was quite literally put on ice, flown to California to be placed in liquid nitrogen, then transported to Colorado to stay with his family. After a series of legal troubles and visa issues over the years, Grandpa Bredo was in danger of being abandoned to thaw when his daughter contacted a local news reporter about the situation. Needless to say, it was intriguing enough to garner quite a bit of attention, and Grandpa Bredo became a sensation and a town icon.
This year marks the 16th annual incarnation of Frozen Dead Guy Days, and it’s a festival that brings out all the weird in Boulder County in all its creative and exuberant glory. From costumes and coffin races to polar plunge activities, a frozen tee shirt contest, frozen salmon tossing, and much more, it’s a lively (ironically) and over-the-top celebration.
The festival breathes a whole new level of life into Nederland throughout the weekend and is also an opportunity to celebrate local artists, bands, and performers. Two out of the three main tents that make up the festival, the Brain Freeze tent and ReAnimate Yourself tent, feature a huge selection of live music from the likes of Fox Feather, Gasoline Lollipops, and many other hugely talented acts who are regulars throughout Boulder County.
Boulder County’s craft breweries get in on the action too. This year, Grossen Bart Brewery in Longmont brewed a special pale ale for the frozen dead guy himself called Bredo’s Brew. The third festival tent, the Bacon, Bourbon & Brews tent, features a host of local breweries, distilleries, and food vendors, as well as even more live music. Sponsored by local breweries including Fate Brewing Company and Upslope Brewing Company, it’s a festival that has morphed into a massive celebration of local culture, as unique and out there as that sometimes may be.
To learn more about the festival, peruse their website and media page. If you haven’t experienced this truly unique, only-in-Boulder event, stop by Nederland this weekend to see (and participate in) all the frozen revelry. And there’s always the chance this is the year when Grandpa Bredo himself joins in on the festivities.