Festival Highlights

Festival events occur March 9-11 in various locations in Nederland. Visitors have free access to event viewing, beer garden and food. There's a $20 entrance fee to all three music tents on Saturday and a $10 entrance fee to all three music tents on Sunday.

Royal Blue Ball: Features Cold-As-Ice Queen or Grandpa Bredo look-alike costume contest, live music by Flash Mountain Flood, Electric Toast & Buttery Friends and Dead Floyd, and cocktails; 4 p.m.-1 a.m., Friday, March 9, ReAnimate Yourself Tent; $20.

Parade of Coffin Racers & Hearses: Noon Saturday; begins at Teen Center and heads west on First Street

Costumed Polar Plunge: Dive into the "icy tub time machine" in full costume. Best costume wins an Eldora midweek 2018-19 season ski pass; 1-2 p.m. Saturday, Guercio Field; $10.

Coffin Races: Race with a "corpse" through a course full of obstacles. Prizes awarded for best time team, runner up time team, best theme/spirit, and most notable snafu on course; 2-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Guercio Field.

More fun

Pancake Breakfast: Eggs and sausage, coffee and juice and all you can eat pancakes 8-11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Community Center, 750 CO-72, $4-$8.

Frozen T-shirt Contest: Slip into something frozen super fast; 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday, Pioneer Inn, 15 E. First St.; $10.

Snowy Human Foosball: Like it sounds. And probably with beer; 1-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Guercio Field; $30 per team.

Fix-A-Frozen-Flat: Fix a bike tire flat after submerging your hands in ice water for a minute; 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday; Clock Tower, 112 E. Second St.

The Newly Dead Game: How well do you know your partner? 1-2 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. Saturday and 3-4 p.m. Sunday; Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center, 20 Lakeview Dr.

Brain Freeze Contest: Slam a bunch of frozen slushies the fastest; 3-4 p.m. Saturday, 2-3 p.m. Sunday, in front of the Brain Freeze Tent on 1st Street; $5.

Ice Carving Competition with Bongo Love and Friends: Local ice carvers create masterpieces; 3-5 p.m. Saturday, 1-3 p.m. Sunday; next to the 3B Tent.

Icy Turkey Bowling: Bowling with frozen fowl; 3-5 p.m. Saturday, 1-3 p.m. Sunday; across from Brain Freeze Tent on First Street; $5.

Frozen Dead Poet Society Readings: Speak an ode to Grandpa Bredo on a soapbox; 5-6 p.m. Saturday, 3-4 p.m. Sunday, on First Street across from the Brain Freeze Tent.

"Grandpa's in the Tuff Shed": Screening of the award-winning short film every 30 minutes; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center, 20 Lakeview Drive.

Nemo and Iffy Salmon Toss: Fling that fish far, friends! Noon-2 p.m. Sunday, Stage Stop, 60 Main St., Rollinsville; $5.

Bring Out Your Beards!: Beard competition with the Boulder Facial Hair Club, 1-1:30 p.m. Sunday, on First Street across from the Brain Freeze Tent.

Rocky Mountain Oyster Eating Contest: You know what they are. If you don't, enter the contest and find out; 3-4 p.m. Sunday, Rocky Mountain Oyster Bar, 25 E. First St.; $7.

Info: frozendeadguydays.org/event-schedule

Every two weeks, Brad Wickham drives to Reliant Dry Ice in east Denver. He picks up a half ton of dry ice, shuttles it nearly 50 miles to Nederland and piles slabs of the cooling agent around an air-tight metal coffin where an old dead dude has been laid to rest.

"I just now got done delivering it," said Wickham on Monday during an interview. "He's in a wooden box that surrounds his coffin, and it holds about 1,500 pounds of dry ice. I add what dissipates over the weeks."

"He" is Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, and he literally chills out inside a Tuff Shed in the hills of Nederland. His grandson keeps him preserved in a cryonic state. He's the inspiration for the town's wackiest party, Frozen Dead Guy Days, a weekend of bizarre events honoring Nederland's famous fleshsicle.

The event has caught worldwide attention. Thousands congregate for strange events like coffin races, human foosball, a parade of hearses, frozen fowl bowling and a costumed polar plunge. Frozen Dead Guy Days kicks off at 4 p.m. Friday, with its annual Royal Blue Ball. The ball features music from Flash Mountain Flood, Electric Toast & Buttery Friends and Dead Floyd. At the masquerade, the best Ice Queen and Grandpa Bredo costumes will be crowned and featured in Saturday's parade.

Frozen Dead Guy Days is a spectacle that grows every year, said festival owner Amanda MacDonald.

"It's more than a party," said MacDonld. "I feel like it's important for some people to be a part of this unusual experience when they learn about it."

Wickham has been Grandpa's "iceman" for four years, taking over the gig from Bo Shaffer, who acted as caretaker for 18 years.

"I've gotten used to putting the ice on him, but I still treat it with reverence," said Wickham. "I always talk to (Grandpa) when I show up. I feel the need to say hello. At times, I'll get a real peaceful, calm and serene feeling. I'll hang out up there on a nice day and enjoy the scenery."

Wickham offers unadvertised tours up to the Tuff Shed, so inquire at the festival, he said.

"I've really grown to appreciate the fact that I am the only guy that does something like this," said Wickham. "There is an interest in this, and it extends beyond Nederland. I've had people contact me from all over the world."

For recent Colorado transplants, the story goes: Morstoel was soaked in liquid nitrogen in California for years after his death in 1989, according to his wishes. His Norwegian daughter and grandson, Aud Morstoel and Trygve Bauge, respectively, brought Morstoel's remains to Nederland in 1993, covered him with dry ice and secured him in a Tuff Shed.

The Norwegians were staunch advocates for cryonics, and moved to Nederland with plans to start their own cryonic facility, but they got busted for housing a corpse. The pair moved eventually back to Norway and now employ Wickham to pack fresh ice on Gramps twice a month.

Meanwhile, Nederland can party like it's 1989, where Grandpa reigns amid frozen hopes and dreams of returning to thawed life.

The unorthodox events make for one strange weekend.

'I better listen to him'

The festival turns 17 this year and MacDonald said that since there are 17 letters in Frozen Dead Guy Days, she saw it as a sign to bring the festival back to its roots. She enlisted the original co-creator of the festival, Brent Warren, to create the art for the event.

"I get a sense when something's not making (Grandpa) happy," said MacDonald. "I was really struggling with the artwork this year, when I decided to go back to the festival's simpler time. I feel that Bredo wants it his way every now and then, so I better listen to him."

A new festival attraction this year is Fix-A-Frozen-Flat, where participants immerse their hands in an ice bath for one minute, then attempt to change a bike tire. The festival also expanded the outdoor beer and cocktail gardens at Guercio Field, and all of the sponsors are local — which makes MacDonald proud.

"I've been working really hard to support Colorado businesses," said MacDonald, noting that the festival's toilet and sound companies are from Nederland. "I just picked up the hats that are hand-knit in Longmont. About 50 percent of the bands are Nederland-based."

Aside from a boon to local businesses, MacDonald said she's employing at least 100 Nederland residents.

MacDonald said she was also pleased to add some diversity to the music lineup this year, as The Gift of Gab, of California rap duo Blackalicious, will help close out the festival Sunday.

"Whenever people hear 'Colorado festival,' they automatically assume there will only be bluegrass music," said MacDonald. "We're not like that. We have a lot of the local mainstays and have sprinkled it with some up-and-coming bands to diversify the event."

Also new this year are wash stations for the re-usable beer cups. Even though the cups are compostable, MacDonald said she still wants to see fewer of them in the bins.

"Cups are our biggest source of waste," she said. "We'll have wash stations where they can be cleaned and stored."

But the real question is, will Grandpa ever return?

"Cryogenics is science. I believe in science," said Wickham. "Whether or not I believe that's stacking blocks of dry ice on a metal coffin, well, that's another question."

Christy Fantz: 303-473-1107, fantz@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/fantzypants