During the fog and flurries, up to 20,000 people made their yearly pilgrimage to Nederland for Frozen Dead Guy Days this weekend. Most come for the novelty and to drink, drink and drink as much beer as possible while watching the wacky events that comprise this weird festival.
Weird, because where else in Colorado, or for that matter, the rest of the country, can you find a festival entirely dedicated to the fact that someone decided Nederland was the right place to keep their grandfather cryogenically frozen in a Tuff shed?
And even weirder, some marketing genius in the town decided that a winter festival could be held to celebrate such a fact? And that said festival would become the iconic thing for what this small mountain town is known for?
As I travel around other parts of Colorado, invariably someone asks me where I live. When I respond Nederland, the nine out of ten times, the next comment is, “Oh, isn’t that where they have that Frozen Dead Guy festival?”
Small mountain towns like Nederland depend on tourism for their survival. And winter can be especially challenging as most of the Eldora skiers zip right through town on their way to and from the slopes. Frozen Dead Guy Days brings a needed shot in the arm to Nederland’s local economy at a time when it is needed most. You do the math — 20,000 people per day for 2 1/2 days? That’s a lot of big bucks flowing into the local business owner’s coffers.
It’s rare that you actually encounter traffic here in Nederland. But this weekend as I sought to drive down to Boulder, I couldn’t even make the left turn to head down Boulder Canyon. Car after car went by heading down at the end of the day. In addition, I saw three RTD buses as well as special event buses pass by me in the span of 15 minutes.
Yep, that’s a lot of business for a town of 1300 people.
But this past week, the Mountain-Ear newspaper featured a letter to the editor expressing a different point of view about FDGD. They complained that this festival didn’t celebrate Nederland’s heritage but instead had become a gimmick to sell beer to a bunch of city people. They actually suggested (gasp!) that the festival be replaced by something more appropriate to Nederland’s history.
At first, I was shocked. This is what Nederland is known for. It is our claim to fame and what puts us on the map with people from out of town.
But it also is kind of a giant pain in the butt. We mountain dwellers live here because we appreciate our peace and quiet and unassuming way of life.
The people that Dead Guy Days attracts are young people who come for the novelty of it, and to drink, and would probably be just as happy at a bar on Pearl Street. And in their wake, they leave the town trashed.
Most locals I know avoid town like the plague, because they don’t want to deal with the crowds and congested streets. Truthfully, I haven’t attended a FDGD festival in four years for much the same reasons.
And Nederland’s identity and what it stands for is truly so much more. Are we selling ourselves out by attaching so much economic boon to this one festival?