Town finds fun in chilling out

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Editor's note: This column by Mark Bliss was originally published March 28.

Some towns go to great lengths to find a reason to party.

Take the mountain town of Nederland, Colo. It annually holds a festival known as "Frozen Dead Guy Days." For three days, spectators celebrate with a hearse parade, a frozen pond dive, frozen T-shirt contest, coffin races and a Grandpa Bredo Morstoel look-a-like contest.

Grandpa, you see, is the frozen dead guy. He died from a heart attack in his native Norway in 1989. His grandson had the body shipped to California, where it was cryogenically frozen. After a few years, the grandson moved the body to a shed in Nederland where the family owns a plot of ground.

Starting five years ago, the town turned the quirky situation into a celebration to draw tourists.

About 3,000 people showed up for last year's festival in the small town north of Denver.

Cape Girardeau tourism officials no doubt wish they had come up with such an attraction.

It's amazing how you can market a town with a shed, dry ice and a frozen corpse.

Cape Girardeau used to be the "city of roses." Tourism officials now tell us it's "where the river turns a thousand tales."

If only one of those tales involved a frozen dead guy, we could really draw the tourists.

But with a little ingenuity, we could find other reasons to celebrate in our river city.

In Sheridan, Wyo., the mayor is sponsoring a "pothole patrol" contest. The mayor encourages residents to e-mail him or call city hall to vote their street as the worst in town for potholes. Sheridan residents are asked to judge the vehicle-jarring problem on the basis of width, depth and number of potholes. The winning street gets moved up on the city's repair list.

I'm sure some Cape Girardeau residents would find such a contest useful.

But we can do better than that.

Maybe we could hold a bad driver festival, except that might pose serious traffic safety issues in our community.

I personally think an orange-traffic-cone festival would be a huge draw. Spectators could take turns weaving through a meandering course of traffic cones on riding lawnmowers. Drunk spectators would be allowed to do the weaving on foot.

Then there's the family taxi festival.

Parents spend much of their weekend leisure time running their children to soccer games, birthday parties and other activities.

Cape Girardeau clearly could capitalize on this by turning it into a contest. Parents who do the most hauling would win prizes like a chauffeur to drive their kids around for a whole weekend.

Of course, one of the city's biggest attractions is gone. Blowing up the old Mississippi River bridge proved to be a huge tourist draw.

But most towns find it difficult to blow up something every year. Still, there's no reason we can't hold a contest to blow up miniature bridges as a reminder of our explosive past.

Last but not least, we could hold a yearly festival to celebrate converting downtown Main Street to a two-way thoroughfare, complete with delivery trucks blocking traffic.

A few traffic jams and blaring car horns could generate some excitement even without a frozen body.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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