Frozen Dead Guy Days

The Polar Plunge at Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland.

Joshua Hardin

WADING THROUGH the deluge of dogs and mountain men on East 1st Street, I passed a lady with a pasted-on grey beard holding a toddler, then a group with plastic butts tied to their backsides. The wind howled into the 11 a.m. high-altitude sunlight, mixing somber-sounding gongs with the excited chatter of the crowd lined up to see the Parade of Hearses at Nederland’s Frozen Dead Guy Days festival.

It was my first time at this oddball festival and my first visit to this eccentric, rebellious mountain town just a windy road west of Boulder.

A mid-winter hearse procession? Out of place almost everywhere but perfectly normal in Nederland. The festival’s honorary “dead guy” is Bredo Morstoel, an athletic, outdoor-loving Norwegian who died in 1989. His daughter and grandson cryogenically froze Bredo, ostensibly awaiting the day that technology would allow him to be reanimated.

After his grandson’s visa expired and he was deported back to Norway, Bredo’s body was discovered, causing quite a sensation. Nederland quickly outlawed keeping frozen bodies, but when Bredo was allowed to stay, Nederland became known as the town with a frozen dead guy.

Grandpa Bredo – as locals call him – seems to be a permanent resident, staying frozen at -60 degrees Fahrenheit thanks to a team of volunteers who pack 1,600 pounds of dry ice every month to his Tuff Shed above Nederland.

Frozen Dead Guy Days gets Nederland through its tough winters, easily swelling the population from 1,500 to 20,000 people each March. And for those 18,500 visitors who stream into Nederland every festival weekend, Frozen Dead Guy Days means the freedom of throwing themselves into activities at which most people might raise an eyebrow. It means being flexible with the unpredictable weather, and it means families having reunions in the midst of all this chaos.

For the rest of the story see the March/April 2020 issue of Colorado Life.