There is a small town about a 17 miles southwest of Boulder located up in the mountains with colorful buildings and plenty of nearby hiking trails. Just about the entire half hour drive is on winding mountain roads, which makes for a nice, scenic route. Upon arriving in Nederland, I instantly fell in love. 8,228 feet in elevation tucked into the Rocky Mountains, it gave me a warm and cozy feeling like I was in a town of gingerbread houses.
At one time a few decades ago, Nederland was a booming mining town, but the bountiful minerals did not last forever. In the 1960s, the hippies started making their move into Nederland, increasing the population and bringing a new lifestyle to the quiet town. It’s amazing to see the impact that the mines had on Nederland’s population. At it’s peak in 1915, the town had 3,000 residents. Come 1950, the population had dropped all the way down to 266. For the last decade or so, however, Nederland has remained at around a steady 1,400 population.
The town now has a variety of small shops, cafes, restaurants, and even two breweries. While we were there, we stopped to grab a beer and some food at the Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery. We chose to wait so we could get a table outside and enjoy the beautiful view and weather. Another block over we stopped at a small tent where a woman was selling fresh produce. There seemed to be a little bit of everything in this town!
Nederland’s more recent claim to fame is their annual “Frozen Dead Guy Days” celebration that is held every year during the first weekend in March. What’s the deal with this strange sounding event? It all started when Bredo Morstel (also known as Grandpa Bredo) died from a heart condition in 1989. Grandpa Bredo was born and raised in Norway. Instead of having a burial when the corpse was found by his grandson, it was preserved using dry ice and shipped off to California where Grandpa Bredo lounged in liquid nitrogen for almost four years.
In 1993, Grandpa Bredo made the big move to Nederland, Colorado to return to dry ice and live with his daughter and grandson out in the shed behind their house. After Grandpa Bredo’s grandson’s visa expired, his daughter took over the house but was evicted shortly after for living in a house with no electricity or plumbing. The town quickly found out about ol’ Grandpa Bredo hanging out in the shed, and soon enough there was a law passed in Nederland making it illegal to store any dead body (or body part) in your home. Luckily for Grandpa Bredo, he earned celeb status and the town allowed him to stay. He has his own caretaker who transports the dry ice to preserve the body, and in 2002 the annual festival went into effect, soon making Grandpa Bredo a worldwide sensation.
25 years later and Grandpa Bredo is still going strong! I hope to make it over to the 2015 festival to enjoy a weekend full of live music, frozen turkey bowling, coffin racing, brain freeze contests, and plenty more odd and unique activities!