Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. The Pink Socks Nerds were brought down by the nerdier JCE Nerds. After six consecutive wins and the decision to make this their last competition, the pink-socked engineering grad students were outbrained by the chemical engineering PhD students. Then again, it probably had something to do with the nature of the shorter course and the advantage of being on the inside of the first curve.
It was the 2016 Frozen Dead Guy Day Festival and a change of location to the Coffin Race and Polar Plunge contests may have lended itself to a shorter, windier course and a smaller diving area, but that just added to the thrill of the spills and splashes.
Up to 25,000 people attended this year’s festival which was more of a melted dead guy event on a little snow field. Local excavator, snow plower, mover guy Danny Martin was called in to haul snow from the Eldora Mountain Resort to the ball field to build the snow course, hills and turns for the coffin race. It made for slushy, muddy footing and roars from the audience as the racers slugged through the course.
The festival began on Friday night with The Blue Ball in the ReAnimate Yourself Tent.
Euphorquestra, Windows Bane, and Funky Tonk Heroes set the mood for the rest of the weekend. Noise, crowd, music, fun, laughter, food and drink, costumes and non-stop frozen jokes. Swirling fog-like mists added to the funky freeze atmosphere as icicle laden Ice Queens and bearded Grandpa Lookalikes vied for the His and Hers Bags sponsored by the Mountain Man.
On Saturday and Sunday, the festival days began with a breakfast put on by the Nederland Area Seniors. Pancake producer Jim Elder reported that 75 dozen eggs, 60 pounds of pancake mix and 100 dozen sausages were consumed on the first day. The line went out the door and into the parking lot. The breakfast is one of the senior’s major fundraisers of the year and this was one of the best.
The big sporting events began with the Parade of Hearses, which outdid itself this year, with a clown hearse that frightened even the adults. Long, black and shiny, the hearses drove slowly up First Street, giving spectators a chance to see the ghoulish beings inside the vehicles. One hearse had to stop and chase a zombie that had leaped out of the back.
From First Street to the Polar Plunge pool, the crowd oozed to the amphitheater area where jumpers walked up the ramp and performed a variety of gymnastics before splashing into an above ground pool. They were in myriad degrees of undress for the plunge.
By this time, the gentle slope surrounding the area was stacked with rows of people waiting for the coffin competition to begin. Thirty teams practiced the Chinese Fire Drill and stretched muscles that would have to propel them uphill while carrying their coffin containing a live 75 pound plus person.
The JCE Nerds said they went out with the fighting spirit. With their long white lab coats flapping in their self-created breeze, they wiggled around the inside of the first switchback to arrive first at the hula hoop station. You could tell that many of them had never seen a hula hoop before but managed to keep it moving for the mandatory spins.
The Pink Socks won their first two heats with ease. Last year’s second place Cereal Killers held in there along with the Nerds, who quietly slipped ahead of the others. In the semi-finals, the Cereal Killers stomped through Peaceful Valley and the Nerds edged out the Pink Socks and then swallowed the Cereal Killer to claim the title and the $300 prize.
As they accepted their winnings, Ben Richardson of the Nerds said “We want to give a shoutout to the Pink Socks for inspiring us.” It was the first time the Nerds had entered the contest. The Socks were presented with a custom made trophy honoring their six consecutive wins. They planned to party as if they had won a seventh. They received a roar of approval from the crowd.
It had been a day of sunshine and blue sky. The crowd dispersed heading to the tents that had non-stop music, especially the one that served all kinds of bacon dishes; the favorite being the bacon tacos. No one can resist the mouth-watering fragrance of sizzling bacon.
Sunday was for families: kids and adults who wanted in on the frozen festival fun events. At the Sundance Restaurant and Lodge, folks tossed frozen salmons weighting in at 16 pounds. Frozen solid at first, the fish eventually became a slimy torpedo of mushy flesh.
Chris Dettman of Rollinsville set the bar early in the day at 40.9 feet but was bested by Chips Knee from Leadville with a 45.11 toss. First place in the women’s category went to Hillary Kysar, with a 34.9 foot toss. In the kids event Sebastian Buford won first place for the second year in a row with a 20.10 throw. Second place kid was Ethan Johnson with a 12.46 throw and third place was Taylor Johnson with a 9.11 throw. As onlookers lined the path of the sailing salmon, they were warned, “Don’t turn your back on the fish.”
On First Street, the frozen t-shirt contest took place in front of the Pioneer Inn. Heather Olden of Los Angeles said she came specifically for the FDGD but decided that she wanted to enter one event, and that was definitely not the polar plunge. How hard can it be to put on a t-shirt?
“Everyone has to have a skill and I am hoping this one is mine,” she said before she got her hunk of ice. The females stomped on the shirts and banged them with fury on the ground. They pushed and pulled and groaned and soon Willow Cohn of South Lyn, Michigan, who was on spring break, punched her way into the shirt to win the shirt she tamed as well as $40.
“I’ve never done this before,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks.”
The men’s winner was David Marke from Denver, who pounded his shirt on the ground like a metronome until he could squeeze into it.
Hairy men entered the beard and mustache contest and before it was over the three top contestants had removed their shirts to add a little chest hair to the mix. Scott of Denver won the crowd approval vote.
Cory Erxleben, from Greeley, with a curly tip mustache said he heard about the event on the morning news and decided to come up. He said, “I never could do anything with the top of my head but I always had good facial hair.”
Turkey bowlers gathered at the snowy alley to try their hand at knocking down the pins. Chickens, small turkeys, and large turkeys were pummeled and rolled down the lane and soon bowlers realized that if they just aimed for the board, they could dislodge the pins.
The crowds dwindled, the large crew of traffic control people could relax a bit. Traffic flow had gone slowly but smoothly all weekend long, even through the Eldora Mountain Resort evacuation at the end of the day.
Parking security kept shopping center slots open for customers throughout the weekend and alcohol consumption was kept within designated areas.
It gets bigger and better every year. The event ended and the crowd went home, back down the mountain or to the faraway cities they came from, after a weekend of fun and sun in the mountains.