Those suffering through Boulder’s hot summer can take comfort in the fact that a favorite wintertime festivity will continue in 2020. Frozen Dead Guy Days — the annual celebration centered around one Norwegian man’s unorthodox decision to cryogenically freeze his deceased grandfather in a shed — is planned for March 13, 14 and 15.
The future of the event became hazy when owner and organizer Amanda MacDonald, who took ownership of the festival from the Nederland Chamber of Commerce in 2012, expressed the desire to relinquish her position and possibly sell the festival that draws approximately 25,000 attendees. She will remain a partial owner and take an active role in the upcoming event.
“Last year, when it looked like this was the end, I was saddened and disheartened,” said Sarah Martin, new controlling partner of Frozen Dead Guy Days. “After some fine-tuning and reexamination by both the town and Amanda, the value of FDGD became clear. The future looks bright.”
A veteran in festival production, event management and merchandising, Martin brings over 30 years of experience to Frozen Dead Guy Days. She has contributed to the event for years, lending her time as a volunteer, but said she is excited to be able to help on a greater scale.
“I can’t remember my first FDGD,” Martin said. “A number of years ago, maybe 10, I was at an estate sale out in east Boulder County where the family had — of all things — a cryogenics machine circa 1982. I brought it over to Amanda’s house for the festival and joined the FDGD crew.”
Martin, who moved to Boulder in 1986, relocated to Nederland in 2016.
“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Amanda MacDonald for almost three decades, working for her has been a blast,” Martin said. “When the opportunity to partner with her presented itself, it was a natural fit.”
Martin has had a varied career with stints that range from setting up official merchandising for the Presidential Inaugural Committee for both of Barack Obama’s winning elections and for California’s High Sierra Music Festival. From various event-planning gigs to working the box office at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, Martin’s career choices are fueled by her love of bringing top-quality festivities and experiences to the masses.
“The team at FDGD is a small army of professionals,” Martin said. “Every year, we come together and create a three-day experience unlike any other. It is a team inside of a team — which is another reason I committed to our partnership.”
MacDonald is working toward opening up a Tuff Shed Mausoleum Museum, in a Tuff Shed on First Avenue that has mostly been used for festival storage over the years. MacDonald has a goal to fill the shed, next to The Branding Iron eatery, with treasures and memorabilia related to the zany festival. It’s adorned with a coffin propped up against the side and a sign that reads “Say Freeze” — providing photo ops for visitors and locals.
“We want to procure the 20 plus years of Frozen Dead Guy Days history, from how it all began with the discovery of Bredo on ice through the years of frosty revelry, weather fiascos, worldwide acknowledgment, unique artwork and lifelong friendships,” said MacDonald, who plans to open the museum in October. “Hope is visitors can peek inside and share in the frozen memories.”
Despite saying the 2019 event would be her last, MacDonald’s longstanding history and connection with Frozen Dead Guy Days ultimately prompted her to stay in the mix.
“This will be my 13th year working with the festival and obviously it’s been a huge part of my life, my family’s and friends’ lives,” MacDonald said. “As amazing as it has been, at times it has also been very stressful with lots of moving parts, politics and not to mention a little risky throwing an outdoor winter festival in the mountains — which is always a gamble.”
MacDonald said she looks forward to stepping back a bit and allowing Martin to take the reins.
“Sarah brings years of experience working with other large events and festivals, along with an amazing network of people, which is definitely going to help take FDGD to a new level,” MacDonald said.
Frozen Dead Guy Days organizers still plan to deliver three live music tents, 34 bands, coffin races, polar plunging, a traditional Blue Ball, frozen T-shirt contests and more of the features attendees have come to expect from the chilling bash.
“There will be no drastic changes to the festival, as it really has its own autonomous story year after year,” Martin said. “We just organize the logistics.”
As far as what bands will take the stage in 2020, Martin, a former artist liaison for various major and independent record labels, is committed to keeping the event affordable.
“Major label acts cost big bucks,” Martin said. “We’d love to have top artists. Amanda has a great ear and has presented terrific music that is within our budget. It is important that our ticket price stays within reach for attendees.”
A multiyear commitment and lease of Nederland’s Guercio Park is in development, along with plans to manage parking, traffic and zero waste, according to a news release.
“I am so excited for Sarah’s energy, support and true respect and understanding of FDGD,” MacDonald said. “She sees it as an important Colorado classic — almost iconic — experience that she wants to both preserve and enhance. It’s definitely the regeneration FDGD was in need of.”
Martin added, “The traditions will live on. We look forward to continuing the unique story of Grandpa Bredo and celebrating our magical Town of Nederland, Colorado.”