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Colorado Festival Tries to Mock Death

How do people in our culture deal with the reality of death? One way is to mock death, as though somehow by thumbing our nose at it, we can prevent it from touching us. For example, since 2001 the tiny mountain town of Nederland, Colorado has hosted a celebration called "Frozen Dead Guy Days." It started when Grandpa Bredo Morstoel died in 1989 in Norway. A family member who wanted to start her own cryogenics business, brought Grandpa Bredo's frozen body to Nederland, Colorado. When local authorities found out about it, the practice of storing bodies was outlawed, but Mr. Morstoel was grandfathered in and allowed to stay in town. The town, seeing its opportunity to laugh in the face of death, started the festival. There was a frozen dead guy in their town, so why not?

Today 20,000 people attend. The festival has coffin races, ice turkey bowling, brain freeze contests, a frozen salmon toss, a parade of hearses, and lots of beer to toast Grandpa Bedo. For a mere $150 you get a personal visit to the see the remains of Mr. Morstoel. Festival director Amanda MacDonald says the goal is "to drink a convivial toast to the grim specter of death or to spit in death's eye." This gleefully macabre weekend built around a frozen corpse—a frozen dead guy!—is yet another example of how we finite human beings try to cope with our pending physical demise.

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