NEDERLAND, Colo. (Reuters) - Every March the cryogenically frozen corpse of a Norwegian man breathes fresh life into sleepy Nederland, Colorado, where throngs of fun-lovers fill the streets for “Frozen Dead Guy Days," a festival in honor of the town's most famous resident.
The annual three-day festival is the brainchild of a local businesswoman who came up with the whimsical idea 16 years ago as a way to attract visitors to Nederland, where the man's body has laid in repose in a shed since 1993.
The event topped her wildest expectations: From a modest crowd of about 1,000 the first year, the festival now draws about 20,000 visitors. Many of them dress in Halloween costumes as they revel in such quirky events as a polar plunge, a frozen salmon toss, musical acts and a costume ball.
“We never imagined it would be so well-received and grow so large – you could say I created a monster,” said Teresa Crush-Warren, credited with hatching the idea when she was president of the local chamber of commerce.
This year's festivities began with a parade of a dozen hearses, followed by a "coffin race" through the streets of the Rocky Mountain town, where temperatures hovered just above the freezing mark.
Sam Baggall, 20, a student at the University of Colorado, stood next to the makeshift coffin she and her five teammates fashioned out of cardboard.
“Our plan is to get out quick and be agile,” she said.
The annual bash honors Bredo Morstoel, who died and was cryogenically frozen in his native Norway in 1989 with the hope that low temperatures will allow him to be resuscitated sometime in the future. After a four-year stint at a California facility, his grandson moved him in 1993 to his property outside of Nederland, 17 miles (27 km) west of Boulder.
Six years ago, the chamber sold the festival to Amanda MacDonald, an event planner for the chamber.
The festival itself is a break-even endeavor, MacDonald said by telephone, but it is a boon for local businesses in the hamlet of about 1,500 full-time residents.
Morstoel’s grandson no longer lives in Nederland and the family has no connection to the celebrations other than paying for his upkeep.
Once the festival ends, 59-year-old Brad Wickham will resume his job as Morstoel’s caretaker, every two weeks hauling 1,000 pounds (454 kg) of dry ice – carbon dioxide in solid form – to the sarcophagus and packing it around the corpse.
“There are a lot of scientists studying cryogenics, but I’m just a guy with a truck and a strong back,” he said.
Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Matthew Lewis