- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2007

NEDERLAND, Colo. — A cryogenically frozen body wouldn’t necessarily be seen as a cause for celebration in most towns.

But this is Nederland, a quirky mountain hamlet where the highlight of each winter is Frozen Dead Guy Days, a three-day festival named after an actual frozen dead guy.

His name was Bredo Morstoel, and his body lies in a Tuff Shed packed with ice in the mountains just above the town limits. Rather than allowing Mr. Morstoel to rest in peace, the commerce-minded folks of Nederland decided six years ago to start a festival in his honor.

The event was a smash from its inception, drawing 1,500 persons in its first year. Event coordinator Teresa Warren said she expects to attract as many as 10,000 this year to the event, which wraps up tonight.

Not bad for a community of about 1,400 whose other attractions include icy winds, prodigious snow and a warm season that lasts from July to August.

“This is a way to get people to brave the cold and come into town,” said Dave Felkley, who served as the announcer for many of the events this weekend. “It gives businesses a shot in the arm because it’s a long way to spring.”

As befits any festival named after the frozen dead, the events tend toward the morbid. The main attraction yesterday was the Coffin Race, but don’t forget the Frozen T-Shirt Contest, the Afterlife Auction and, new for this year, Frozen Turkey Bowling. Then there’s the Grandpa Lookalike Contest and the Brain Freeze Contest.

No one could have predicted any of this in 1994, when town officials discovered that Trygve Bauge, a Norwegian citizen living in Nederland, had frozen his grandfather’s body and was keeping it on his property.

It turned out Mr. Morstoel had died in Norway in 1989. His family shipped his remains to Oakland, Calif., to be cryogenically frozen in liquid nitrogen, but four years later, Mr. Bauge moved his grandfather’s body to Nederland.

By all accounts, Mr. Bauge had planned to establish a cryogenics storage facility for other frozen bodies. It didn’t work out that way: He and his mother, Aud Morstoel, were deported after it was found that their visas had expired.

The Town Council immediately passed an ordinance making it illegal to store dead bodies on private property, but couldn’t make the law retroactive, which meant Mr. Morstoel was allowed to stay.

“He was grandfathered in,” Mr. Felkley deadpanned.

The entire episode drew international press coverage, and soon Nederland residents found themselves famous for something besides cold weather. That’s when the local Chamber of Commerce decided to take advantage of the town’s newfound notoriety by holding a winter festival with a cryogenic theme.

Deciding on a name wasn’t difficult, Mrs. Warren said.

“If you told someone you were from Nederland, the first thing they would say was, “Oh, that’s where the frozen dead guy is,’ ” she said. “My husband said, ‘Well, [the town of] Fruita has ‘Mike the Headless Chicken Days’; why not call it ‘Frozen Dead Guy Days?’ ”

Mr. Morstoel’s body, which lies in an insulated steel coffin, is packed with dry ice at a cost of $700 per month, paid by his family in Norway. The festival used to feature tours of the property, but the family called a halt to the practice a few years ago.

Not surprisingly, the Frozen Dead Guy Days has its detractors.

“A lot of people in town aren’t crazy about this event,” Mr. Felkley said. “It’s kind of a strange thing, having a celebration over a dead body.”

Nonsense, Mrs. Warren said, adding that critics are missing the point. “What we’re really doing,” she said, “is celebrating life.”

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