It was a weekend of extremes: Blizzard conditions on Saturday gave way to bright sun and blue skies on Sunday and the 2013 Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival prevailed. This year’s biggest snow storm began early Saturday morning and by the time coffin racers, polar plungers and hearse drivers woke up and headed toward the FDGD capital, wayward buses, sideways in Boulder Canyon, closed access for almost four hours.
RTD bus driver Bill Pellouchoud said he managed to get his bus filled with skiers around the accidents in the canyon but after the narrows, the bus filled with smoke and he limped into the parking lot and sent for a rescue bus to take the skiers to Eldora. “I’m waiting for the bus to come back down from Eldora and take me to Boulder where I can get my car and drive back up the canyon to my house outside of Nederland. This is like an adventure.”
Many people decided to turn around and many people came up Coal Creek Canyon, joining the ski crowd looking for powder. Event director Amanda MacDonald decided to postpone the parade, coffin races and polar plunge until Sunday, but the rest of the festival went on, a massive rejoicing of the 16 inches of snow that blanketed the mountains and continued all day.
“Hallelujah!” said the locals, thinking of much needed moisture and fire danger. “Bummer,” said some of the coffin teams who couldn’t come back on Sunday. Many of them, eight teams, actually stayed and participated in a time trial race on Saturday attracting a die-hard crowd who weren’t about to let a blizzard keep them from supporting the athletes.
A couple of hot dogs and a Heinz yellow mustard racer said, “We can’t come back tomorrow, but we are going to race today. We have beer and food and we are fine.” and they unloaded their hot dog bun from the top of their van.
The festivities began on Friday. The afternoon bands lured shivering visitors into the large heated tents at Chipeta and First Street. The warm aroma of smoked meat, pizza, popcorn and beer clung to the large flakes of snow sifting down on the town. They danced in the tents, warming their limbs and spirits.
At 7 p.m. on Friday, the official opening ceremony took place at the roundabout, in front of the large, wooden FDGD letters. Announcer Dave Felkley welcomed a large group of people gathered at the intersection. Nederland police officers closed down the road, and Mayor Joe Gierlach welcomed the visitors which included a camera crew from Russia accompanying the lovely Irina who was to participate in the events.
People from Texas, Florid and even Japan had traveled to Nederland to join the fun. “We learned about the festival on Japanese television,” said Christine Bialik, “This is so awesome,” and she and her sisters danced in front of the Russian cameramen, excited to go back home and tell their friends about the experience.
After the ribbon cutting, Nederland High School Zombie dancers performed their macabre moves in their bloody torn clothes
and thrilled the crowd. As usual the ceremony lasted about 20 minutes and then everyone headed into town to party.
Costumed revelers paraded up the stairs of the Black Forest Restaurant, drawn to the sound of Silas Herman and the Gypsy Moon band. The dance floor was packed with frigid ice queens and frozen grandpa lookalikes. Around 10 p.m., the band took a break and the costume contest began, with Stephanie Andelman as the contest emcee
When the queens and grandpas lined up, the judges, including mayor Gierlach and Kimba Stefane of Blue Owl Books, asked the contestants to answer questions such as ‘How would you melt Grandpa Bredo,’ which drew some raunchy answers from the queen crowd and then had each of the contestants do a dance to heat things up.
After conferring with each other, the judges deemed local resident Susan Sepanik as queen and green-faced Wilson Glick as the best grandpa lookalike.
The night was clear and still as the bars closed down and the town went to sleep. At least a foot of snow, whiteout conditions and a promise of snow all day long, made event organize rethink their schedule. Last year high winds closed down Saturday activities. This year, the parade, the polar plunge and the official coffin race were postponed until Sunday. But the bands played on. Children threw snowballs and sledded. Adults did too. Dogs frolicked and it seemed like most people over 21 drank beer.
Coffin teams attended the Nederland Area Senior’s Pancake Breakfast. saying, “We came all the way up here, with costumes and everything and oh, well, let’s eat pancakes.”
About half the usual crowd stood on the hillside overlooking Chipeta Park and watched the pre-coffin race teams go at each other in the snowstorm. They slipped and spilled and suffered major, unrepairable coffin damage, but loved the challenge of the day.
Later in the day, frozen turkey bowlers practice their technique tossing frozen fowls at bowling pins set up in front of the Deli, where the restaurant owners set up an outdoor hot dog cart with hot chocolate to warm hands and souls.
Irina, the Russian, got to throw a cornish game hen and managed to knock out five pins on the First Street bowling alley. In the patio area of the Pioneer Inn, the frozen t-shirt contest frustrated grown men to cuss and women to pack the icy garb under their clothes, between their legs and anywhere that might free up the sleeves.
The contest took place on Sunday also and a young woman managed to beat out two hefty men. She won a $100 gift certificate to the PI and, of course, the t-shirt. The men tried to convince contest director Andelman that the black shirts melted easier.
The music tents were packed. Music coordinator Bruce Lish knows the bands and knows what the crowds want and put together two amazing days of non-stop music. On Saturday the Zimmermans drove the crowd to a frenzy with Bob Dylan songs that everyone could sing along, or shout along, with.
The snow dwindled in the late afternoon and the forecast held promise for Sunday. Nederland awoke to the perfect winter day. Bright sun, pristine champagne snow and no wind. A stream of traffic miles long headed up Coal Creek and Boulder Canyons, some heading to powder at Eldora and the rest lining First Street for the annual FDGD parade.
Grand marshal Teresa Crush-Warren rode on the McCollum wagon pulling Jimmy Keith’s antique hearse. The usual hearse parade, after not being able to make it on Saturday, cancelled their appearance. A few coffin teams paraded past the hundreds of people and although the parade was shorter than usual, the costumes and completive nature of the racers got the crowd revved up for the polar plunge.
A huge mass of people swarmed from First Street to the Chipeta Park kids fishing pond where up to 40 people jumped into a hole in the ice and were saved by Nederland Fire Protection District water rescue personnel. Although there weren’t the usual gymnastics, the plungers brought hilarious swim garb and dramatic scenarios to the ice stage. There were a few drowned wigs and droopy shorts as the jumpers ran to the warming hut.
And then the coffin races drew the biggest crowd of the weekend. Eight teams vied for the fastest time prize of $420 and for the best costume prize. The Pink Socks from Boulder have won the race three years in a row and were going after a fourth victory. The Jamaican Bobsled team were streamlined and well-practiced and drooling for the prize money.
Other teams included the Boogers, the Trailer Trash, the Pussy Poppers, the Dead Man’s Chest, a local team, the Muppets, and the grave diggers. It was a tough course beginning with a series of bumps that capsized almost every team. The Pink Socks flowed over the hills and had an almost flawless run to win their fourth race. They say they are mostly engineer students who use the same coffin, built with structural integrity, every year. “It is bomb proof,” said their captain. They said they would most likely drink their prize money, celebrate the rest of the day.
The Jamaican Bobsled team, from Leadville, waving a large green flag, were happy to win the best costume. The crowd threw a few last snowballs and then dissipated into the tents or into the traffic jam which included a parking lot filled ski day at Eldora. The Nederland Police Department and Boulder County Sheriff’s deputies controlled the traffic through town. The tents shut down, the beer stopped flowing, the food vendors packed up and the 2013 FDGD festival wound down.
It was a happy, family oriented weekend and everyone enjoyed the fun, the funny and the frozen events. The restaurants and bars were packed and B & F Mountain Market employees say it was non-stop business on both Saturday and Sunday.
On Monday morning, the wind blasted the town, blowing the ice granules and gravel over First Street and Chipeta Park. And it didn’t matter anymore.
Frozen Dead Guy Day 2013 Special Thank You
Wow what a ride! One that would never happen without the support of amazing volunteers, superfriends, angels (you know who you are) the town and community of Nederland, Nederland Police & Fire and FDGD’s awesome patrons. There were over a hundred volunteers who came from all over Colorado , many braving tough roads to get to their shift, we can’t thank them enough for going the extra snowy miles to help out. Then there was a core of people, many local, others not, who gave so much of their time, terrific energy and support to simply just make it happen. FDGD would like to give an extra special thanks to ; Bruce Lish, Andrew Lauer, Eric Mix, Deb DeAndrea, Mike Collins, Brien Darby, Sarah Stillman, Sarah Martin, Andrea & Rod Moreland, Mark Beyshore, Stephanie Andelman, Katrina Harms, Matt Johnson, Jennifer Pund, Jeffrey Smith, Johnny Hedgepatch, Rob Z, Matt Shock, Bob MacDonald, Teresa Warren, Mark Smith, Michael Ruiz, Cassie Byrd, Ed Sanchez, Will Hogan, Lance Jones, Nancy Moon, Lauran Knight, Jim McVey, Peter Fiore, Brian Roche, Kelly Perry, Karen Edmonds, Spencer, Norm and Hills;)
FDGD thanks you all and hope you know how grateful we are, this is your fest!
FREEZE THE DAY!