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 Maine's Got Moxie, And Isn't Afraid To Celebrate It
The annual Moxie Festival in Lisbon Falls centers on the state's new official beverage, but organizers say the event is about more than just the carbonated cure-all

LISBON FALLS, Maine - Sure, the town is aglow with blindingly bright orange Moxie t-shirts, the line of folks waiting outside the Kennebec Fruit Store for homemade Moxie ice cream wraps around the building, and one of the many highlights of the weekend is the Moxie chugging challenge but Lisbon Falls' annual summertime Moxie Festival is about much more than just a soda.

"The festival really represents what small town Maine and really, rural
America, is all about," explains Jim Baumer, a member of the Moxie Festival organizational committee. "There is a certain element of the past at this festival."

The three-day event, which runs from July 8-10, includes old-fashion fun
activities like a car show, a recipe contest (a Moxie vinaigrette took the
blue ribbon last year), a fireman's muster, a trivia contest, a bubble gum
contest, pony rides, and a pancake breakfast.

A two-hour long parade down Main Street in Lisbon Falls is the highlight of the weekend, with upwards of 30,000 people lining the route, many who claim their curb before the sun even rises to ensure a prime view.

It is thought to be the only festival built around a soft drink, says longtime organizer Sue Conroy. Also as part of the festival is a 5K running race on Saturday and a canoe race on Sunday. And of course, Frank Anicetti, owner of the Kennebec Fruit Store, which actually doesn't sell fruit but instead has become a makeshift Moxie memorabilia Mecca, is always on hand to dish out Moxie ice cream to the masses.

This year's festival is expected to draw a heartier than usual crowd, thanks to the Maine Legislature recently shining the spotlight on the otherwise humble beverage when they voted to pass a bill that would make Moxie the official state soft drink.

On May 20, Maine's Governor John E. Baldacci took a swig of the soda,
announced with a pat of his head that he could feel his roots coming back, and then signed the bill making it official.

Moxie, a hold-over from the greatest generation, is a snappy soda that was originally patented as a cure-all and was marketed as Moxie Nerve Food. It was the first mass produced soda. Boston batter Ted Williams shilled for the drink, contributing to its all-American allure, and former President Calvin Coolidge toasted his sudden inauguration with an ice cold Moxie and was known for enjoying the beverage during his tenure in the nation's highest office.

Even today, Moxie devotees swear by drinking a can everyday to promote vigor and good health.

While it's tricky to find a Moxie in the average United States soda cooler
today, it's only a mouse click away. In addition to dozens of sites which
the drink can be ordered from, there is a bustling Moxie community online.

To put it mildly: "Moxie has a cult following," admits Baumer.

In addition to a New England Moxie Congress that meets each year at the conclusion of the Lisbon Falls festival, there are popular online chat
rooms and countless Web sites devoted to the drink, its memorabilia, the
Moxie culture and where to buy it.

Though it was not invented in Maine, its creator, Dr. Augustin Thompson, was born in Union, Maine and Mainers have long since identified with the drink. While driving through the Pine Tree State, it's not uncommon to see a car proudly displaying a "Moxie Makes Mainers Mighty" bumper sticker. Moxie is still made in New England, New Hampshire to be exact, but is owned by the Monarch Corporation, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

"Moxie is more than just a drink," says Baumer. "Like Moxie, people in
Maine have a certain steadfastness and perseverance. Mainers have that
pick-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps mentality. We're independent, but if you get stuck on the side of the road, someone will pull over and help you change your tire."

Conroy says she's thrilled Moxie is now her state's official soft drink and
points out that nationwide, moxie is back on the tip of everyone's tongue.

"This season on American Idol, Paula Abdul told one of the contestants
(Scott Savol) when he was leaving the show, 'You've got moxie and if you
don't know what that is, go home and look it up,'" Conroy reports proudly. "Moxie is becoming more and more used in everyday language. Now, with it being made Maine's official soft drink, people are going to be more curious as to what it is, why it is and where it is."

While Moxie may be experiencing a resurrection, one thing that hasn't
changed is the taste. It's no secret that the drink is an "acquired taste,"
as Baumer puts it. Part of its allure is a strong aftertaste, caused no
doubt by the gentian root and wintergreen extract in the soda.

"I can drink it without making a face," says Conroy, "but would I go out
and buy a big bottle of it? I don't think so. I love the whole attitude of
it and the idea. It's the whole Moxie mystique."

For more information about the festival, visit www.moxiefestival.com.


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