Aparade of hearses is snaking its way along Nederland’s main street. The waft of barbecued meat, craft beer and Colorado’s other legal mood enhancer of choice, marijuana, hang in the air. The dozen-or-so vintage Cadillacs and Buicks are customised liberally with studded steel plating, tinted windows, and undead paraphernalia. There are gladiators, ghost-busters, and the obligatory scary clowns. Zombie Elvis is dancing to the Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive, which is blasting out from a speaker over my head.
For most of the year, Nederland, Colorado, leads a fairly sleepy existence. Its elevation – 2,510 meters above sea level – and deep winter snow makes it a remote, if beautiful, location, studded with Aspen trees and colourful clapboard houses. It’s popular with hikers, climbers, and those who choose to live on the fringes.
But on the second weekend of March each year, thousands of people descend on this small Rocky Mountain town. A Wookie lumbers across the road, holding up traffic. A polar bear manages not to spill his pint as he stumbles on a patch of snow. They’re here for a three-day party known as Frozen Dead Guy Days – and things are about to get weird.
The festival has its origins in a real-life frozen dead guy named Bredo Morstøl. He was discovered in Nederland in a DIY cryogenic facility set up by his grandson, Trygve Bauge.
Trygve, a Norwegian who believes in the life-prolonging benefits of bathing in ice, was deported from the US in 1994 after overstaying his visa. It was only then that the body of Bredo, frozen in dry ice and housed in a shed, came to the attention of authorities. They swiftly passed an emergency decree making it a “nuisance” to keep dead bodies on private property.
But as Bredo was there before the law was passed, he was “grandfathered-in” and allowed to stay. And he’s still there, housed in a mountainside Tuff Shed and visited fortnightly by a caretaker who refreshes him with 900 pounds of dry ice.
In 2002, Nederland’s residents founded a small festival celebrating their claim to fame as the town with the “frozen dead guy”. Since then, the event has grown steadily, and there were more than 20,000 festival-goers this year.
Among the macabre festivities is the coffin race, where teams of six “pallbearers” lug a casket with a “corpse” through a snowy obstacle course. There’s also a polar plunge, though this year it was relocated from the frozen Barker Meadow reservoir to a rather more health-and-safety-friendly (yet still icy) swimming pool.
If that’s not enough to give you goosebumps, there’s a frozen T-shirt contest, where contestants race to don folded T-shirts that are frozen solid. Other activities include a frozen salmon toss and turkey bowling , where participants line up to lob a frosty bird at a bunch of skittles.
Depending on your preference, refreshment comes from Colorado craft breweries such as Upslope and Vail Brewing Co, or cannabis goods like “sweet grass cookies” and “stoned cold drinks”.
And as you’d expect from a mountain-west festival, the live music tents are crammed with more rock, gypsy swing, and bluegrass bands than you can shake a banjo at, with names like Gasoline Lollipops and Dead Floyd – a Grateful Dead / Pink Floyd mash-up act.
According to theguardian.com