(This was updated March 2 to update incorrect times provided by the organizers.)
If You Go
What: Frozen Dead Guy Days
When: Friday, March 7-Sunday, March 9. Hours are 5-10 p.m. Friday (Blue Ball in the Reanimate Yourself Tent, $10), 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Full calendar of events online.
Infor: 303-506-1048 or frozendeadguydays.org
The pink jersey, pink socks and too-short jean shorts sit neglected most of the year in Joel Weber's closet, too wild and goofy for his everyday life as an engineering graduate student. The outfit comes out only for Frozen Dead Guy Days, Nederland's famous winter festival (running March 7-9 this year), where being wild and goofy is par for the course and that outfit is a badge of honor: It's the uniform of the Pink Socks, the winningest coffin-race team in the event's history.
"We like being recognized at this point," Weber said of the notorious team, which is made up of other engineering grad students. "We have our fans and we have our enemies, and we want keep it that way."
The Pink Socks will try to become the first team of six pallbearers carrying a seventh member in a homemade coffin through a snowy obstacle course again during this year's coffin races, which begin at 2 p.m. March 8.
"Honestly, it's just a lot of fun," Weber said, explaining the slightly morbid and highly entertaining race, which is just one element in a slew of morbid and entertaining fare during the Frozen Dead Guy Days (FDGD) weekend. "It's just a great time to get outdoors, especially for people bottled up during cold weather up in the mountains."
According to FDGD founder Teresa Crush-Warren, that cold-weather release was always the goal of the festival, which enters its 13th year.
"So many people who live in Nederland get through February knowing that Frozen Dead Guy Days is going to be the first of March," she said. "It's cabin fever."
Activities such as the coffin race, costumed Polar Plunge, disco-dancing warm-up tent, Icy Turkey Bowling, frozen T-shirt contests and more help folks blow off winter steam while also commemorating Nederland's most famous resident: "Grandpa" Bredo Morstoel, aka the Frozen Dead Guy.
"It started with him," Crush-Warren said of Morstoel, who was cryonically frozen by his grandson in 1989 and moved to Nederland in 1993, where he is preserved with 1,600 pounds of dry ice per year in a Tuff Shed. "He's like our spirit. A lot of people feel like he's around Nederland in a spiritual way."
Grandpa also sticks around in a legal way: Though he was "grandfathered" in, Nederland passed a law to ban any other storage of frozen, dead bodies. According to Crush-Warren, though, the law doesn't specify human bodies, so those frozen turkey carcasses that festival goers can bowl with through the weekend are technically illegal. But that's all part of the fun.
Because Grandpa has been the subject of worldwide fascination and several movies — including "Grandpa's in the Tuff Shed," which will screen several times next weekend — FDGD attracts people and media from all over the world. Music is also a huge component of FDGD, with free concerts on two stages throughout the weekend.
In addition to its long-running events, this year's festival will include such new additions as a Frozen Monster Remote Control Truck Demo, a Frozen Beard and Moustache competition and several Frozen Dead Poet Society open readings.
"To be in an environment where one wouldn't expect poetry and have opportunity to hear it, we jumped at it," said Elyse Brownell, who organized the Frozen Dead Poet Society reading with Chris Shugrue. Original poems and readings are both welcome, and Brownell says the poetry is yet another opportunity to let loose.
"There definitely will be howling for those who decide to stand up on that soapbox."
Death being the festival's theme, "a lot of people think it's a ghoulish thing, but our main visitors that come are families," Crush-Warren said. "People come with their kids."
In fact, she believes the zany, lighthearted spirit of the event captures the pioneering personality of Nederland and of Colorado, and she notes that weather-cancelation policy is equally frontier-sy.
"If the wind is blowing 30 mph, that's fine. If it's snowing, that's fine. We'll have a good time," she says. "We can handle that."
After all, Grandpa handles -60 degrees every day.