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Coffin races. Frozen T-shirt contests. A hearse parade. These bizarre rituals have long honored Nederland’s chillest resident: a Norwegian man named Bredo Morstøl who died in 1989 and has been cryogenically preserved inside a shed in town for decades. In 2002, Nederland’s chamber of commerce created a festival around Morstøl’s legend to attract tourists in the offseason. It worked—some 20,000 attendees flocked to the tiny town of 1,500 to catch 2022’s Frozen Dead Guy Days (FDGD). But when Nederland officials and FDGD’s owners failed to reach an agreement this past November to continue the event, most assumed the celebration was, well, dead. Instead, it’s been resurrected in Estes Park by a new owner, Stanley Hotel proprietor John Cullen. The move has many wondering: How do locals feel about losing the festival to their polished northern neighbor? To find out, we asked some of the living to weigh in.
Longtime volunteer Crush-Warren coined the FDGD name and helped come up with many of its events, but she has no plans to help out now that it has moved. “I was involved here because this is my community,” Crush-Warren says. She does, however, have one piece of advice for Cullen: “Don’t change a thing.”
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The Longtime Owner
Despite its popularity, the festival barely broke even. “I’d been keeping it on life support for 10 years,” says MacDonald, who was FDGD’s main organizer since 2010 and its majority shareholder from 2012 to 2019, when she sold most of her stake to a friend. “We built an amazing team, so my hope is Estes Park utilizes them.” They’re the ones who’ve always given the festival its organic feel, she says.
“This is something that put Nederland on the map,” says Giblin, who began his first term in September 2022, “so in my mind, that is the biggest loss. But there were a lot of folks in town who felt like it had become too big. So you’re going to see people who don’t miss it, others who just don’t care, and some who are angry that it’s gone.”
The Local Business Owner
While Busey, owner of Busey Brews Smokehouse & Brewery, appreciated the chance to sling beers during FDGD, he says the festival eventually became more trouble than it was worth. “While Busey Brews was able to participate in some of the [festival’s] tent events, the organizers brought in outside food trucks and beer vendors, which hampered the ‘support-local’ feeling. I hope this is an opportunity for Nederland to create an event that is a better fit for our town.”
The New Boss
“We have the resources to make it an extraordinary festival,” says Cullen, who bought the festival this past December. “We’re going to make it goofy. Yes, there will be coffin races and a hearse parade. Two events are at the Stanley, but this is not a Stanley festival; this is an Estes Park festival. The Stanley won’t earn a nickel, because all the proceeds will go to childcare and workforce housing development [in town].”