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Frozen dead guy days

Published February 26. 2011 09:00AM

As editor of the National Federation of Press Women's newsletter, The Agenda, I have the privilege of "meeting" people from all over the country, via emails and twice-a-year meetings.

This week I heard from Gail Rubin of New Mexico. She recently wrote a book, "A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don't Plan to Die."

While I'm sure it is a fascinating book chock full of very useful information, it was the conversation we had in regards to her upcoming speaking engagement in Nederland, Colorado, to promote her book, that touched my funny bone.

"I'm looking forward to speaking at the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Nederland, Colorado, March 4-6. I'll be debuting 'The Newly-Dead Game,' which is a variation on the TV game show, 'The Newlywed Game.' In this case, the questions test how well couples know their partner's last wishes. At the test run we just did, both the audience and the participating couples thought it was fun, educational, and a great way to get the conversation started," Gail said in her email.

Two things.

First of all, I think her idea of "The Newly-Dead Game" is really a hoot! It could be just as funny as the old "Newly-Wed Game." We played that one time at a church dinner. If you think you really know your spouse, just play that game once. It can be a real eye-opener.

I also think Gail is on to something here. I bet you dollars to doughnuts Harry doesn't really believe me when I say he better not bury me with my glasses on. I mean it! I'm going to sleep. I do not go to sleep in real life with them on and I don't want to go into eternity with them on. Besides, when I get to heaven, I'll have perfect eyesight, so who needs them!

But it was when I read about where she was speaking, I just had to know more about the Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival.

Gail told me, "Frozen Dead Guy Days" (FDGD) is a wild and wacky celebration of all things dead and frozen, including a Polar Plunge, a parade of hearses, coffin races, frozen salmon tossing, the Brain Freeze Ball, a dance called Grandpa's Blue Ball, pancake breakfasts, a market showcasing local artists, snowshoe races, and snow sculpture contests. Glacier Ice Cream, headquartered in the nearby city of Boulder, makes a flavor specifically for the festival, named, appropriately enough, Frozen Dead Guy, consisting of fruit-flavored blue ice cream mixed with crushed Oreo cookies and sour gummy worms. And yes, it does have a real frozen dead guy at the center of it all."

She said the FDGD is based on the true story of Grandpa Bredo Morstoel from Norway. After his death in 1989, due to a heart condition, his daughter, Aud Morstoel, and grandson, Trygve Bauge, both strong advocates for cryonics, packed him in dry ice and shipped him to a U.S. cryonics facility for eventual reanimation. In 1993, Aud and Trygve, hoping to start their own cryonic facility, moved Grandpa to Colorado.

The story then takes a number of interesting turns concerning whether or not it's illegal to store a frozen human (or animal) in your home, eviction (Aud's), deportation, Trygye's), and thawing (Grandpa Bredo.) Long story short - Grandpa Bredo has been kept in a Tuff Shed, a sheltered, dry ice-fueled deep freeze, in Nederland. When Aud and Trygye could no longer care for Grandpa physically, Trygye put an ad on the Internet for a caretaker. Bo Shaffer answered the ad in 1995 to make sure Grandpa stayed frozen. Every month, Bo and a team of volunteers, delivers 1,600 pounds of dry ice and packs it around Grandpa Bredo and makes sure he's kept in a steady -60 degrees. Shaffer gives tours to investigators, filmmakers, local volunteers, and even psychics who have purported to communicate with the dearly departed (by one account, Grandpa Bredo is amused by the fuss but doing fine.)

Frozen for 21 years, Grandpa Bredo is keeping the hope alive for his family and their faith in cryonics, as well as being responsible for an annual festival that has grown into a full-fledged winter celebration.

Ten years ago, the Nederland Area Chamber of Commerce saw an opportunity. It's reported that Nederland thrives on the colorful, the offbeat, and the weird. It's a town with residents so bored stiff after long cold winter months that they took a stiff to end their boredom with their Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival. Grandpa Bredo's grandson, Trygve Bauge calls it "Cryonics' first Mardi Gras."

People come from around the world every March to experience the legacy of Grandpa Bredo - even representatives of cryonics organizations who want to share the science behind this unique story.

Loyal souls go to the Tuff Shed on the hill to have a drink with Colorado's best-known corpse, marking the passage of years.

2011 marks Bredo's twenty-first year on ice and the 2011 festival is the 10th annual.

Named by the Chicago Tribune in 2007 as one the country's top 100 festivals not to be missed, by Reader's Digest as one of the top five winter festivals in the country and in 2010 FDGD won the Governor's Award for Best Promotional Event in Colorado.

It has been featured on television and the subject of two international award-winning documentaries.

Grandpa Bredo is going to be 110 years old. I think his daughter, Aud, and his grandson, Trygve, should read Gail's book.

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