NEDERLAND — Frozen Dead Guy Days was heating up in Nederland today, even as the temperature was a brittle 31 degrees, according to the sign outside the bank in this town of 1,500 living.
At noon, the first hearty souls let out a whoop in the Two Below Tent in the center of town for a three-day celebration of "Grandpa" Bredo Morstol, the resident who is not quite here but not quite gone. The frozen dead man stays in a crate of dry ice just outside town until science figures out how to wake him up.
Each year, more than 50,000 of the most irreverent people show up in Nederland to be cool with Grandpa.
"It's the most unique festival you'll ever go to," said Julie Ward of Orlando, Fla., the daughter of town administrator Jim Stevens. "Where else can you possibility go where they have anything like this?"
Frozen Dead Guy Days coordinator Teresa Warner said the festival appeals to the oddball in all of us — celebrating the afterlife of a guy on ice, with events such as coffin races, a masquerade ball for 400 and even a look-a-like contest for the festival's namesake.
She was especially proud today of the new Sustainability Tent, with booths and presenters who promote living with zero waste.
"If Grandpa can sustain, so can we — and life extension really is sustaining," Warner said.
Figuratively, Grandpa comes to life again as Nederland's residents and visitors put their cares on ice for three days each March, during the cold, wet, windy days of late winter.
Born in Norway in 1900, Grandpa drew his last breath when the first President Bush was in the White House and Billy Ray Cyrus had a mullet.
Since then, Grandpa Bredo has remained in an aluminum box inside a Styrofoam-and-plywood freezer covered in dry ice so that he stays a toasty 60 degrees below zero in a Tuff Shed outside of town.
The backstory of how Nederland landed a frozen dead guy is cool too. A Norwegian, Trygve Bauge, brought his dearly departed grandfather to Nederland via Norway in 1993 with a dream of building a cryonics lab in the mountains. The Life Extension Institute never materialized, and Bauge was deported for overstaying his visa.
He pays a local to keep pouring ice on Grandpa.
With media attention far and wide for this little mountain hamlet, the Chamber of Commerce chose to cash in by launching Frozen Dead Guy Days in 2002 with a Mardi Gras for the old guy on ice who has become the town's favorite son and biggest winter tourist attraction.
The official kickoff is tonight in the town square — well, the roundabout at the intersection of Colorado 119 and 72 — at 7 p.m.
Other big highlights today include the Frozen to the Bonz contest at 8 p.m. at the Pioneer Inn, where men and women compete for the most frozen-looking legs in hopes of winning a nice pair of running shoes.
The Blues Masquerade Ball — affectionately called "The Blue Ball" — also is at 8 p.m., at The Ned Community Center. The costume gala includes the music of Ukelelei Loke and the Gadabout Dead Guy Orchestra, with burlesque dance and sideshows. Tickets are $25.
No one should sleep like the dead on Saturday, with the modestly monikered "Best-Ever Pancake Breakfast," served up by local elders at the First Street Pub and Grill from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. The cost is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $2 for kids younger than 12.
Registration for the official audience-participation events is from 10 a.m to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Nederland Teen Center at Barker Reservoir. Signups include the famously irreverent Cryonics Parade (noon), Charity Polar Plunge (1 p.m.) and Tuff Shed Coffin Races (2 p.m.).
For a complete schedule of events, visit www.nederlandchamber.org/FrozenDead