LISBON — The 35th annual celebration of all things Moxie went off smoothly Saturday, but Frank Anicetti, the man who helped to introduce the quirky beverage to a new generation and who died in May, was missed.
Saturday’s festivities included a Moxie-chugging contest (described as “not for the faint of heart or esophagus”), a morning parade through town and a 5K road race.
Dennis Bruso from East Coast Printers was at his fourth Moxie Festival, his first as the official apparel supplier, and was happy with how the day had gone.
“It’s hot — warmer than it said it was,” he said. “But overall, it went well.”
Bruso and his crew started at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, selling shirts, bandanas, bumper stickers and baby onsesies.
After a long, warm day — interspersed with a quick afternoon rainshower — Saturday wrapped up with a lobster dinner, complete with chilled Moxie and tubs of melted butter.
Carol Adams, one of the original members of Moxie Congress, was happy to be surrounded by friends and family at the annual event.
Adams and her husband, Terrence, live in North Carolina, and make the trek every year to attend the festival.
She said she was introduced to Moxie in the ’90s and has been a part of the Congress ever since.
“We’ve been coming to Lisbon Falls a long time, and you guys have always been so nice to us,” Adams said. “It’s become a family tradition through the years.”
Terrence said he thinks Moxie is about to make a big comeback. With Coca-Cola earning the rights to bottle and sell it (in 2007), “it’s gonna grow like it was.”
The Great Depression killed its momentum, he said, but it’s gaining more traction now.
Anicetti, who once owned the Kennebec Fruit Co. store in Lisbon Falls, died in May at 77. He held two book signings at his store for Moxie lover and author Frank Potter in the early 1980s that drew far more people than expected, and prompted town leaders to transform their Frontier Days festival into the Moxie Festival.
Anicetti turned his family store into a mini-museum of Moxie memorabilia and became the unofficial spokesman for the event. It all paved the way for Moxie being declared the official soft drink of Maine in 2005 and the annual gathering of thousands of people in this small town to celebrate the beverage.
But even the man nicknamed “Mr. Moxie” acknowledged the bitter concoction is an acquired taste.
“On the first taste, you may want to spit it out and throw it away,” Anicetti once said. “On the second taste, you may want to do the same — but don’t. Wait for that third taste to allow the true flavor of Moxie to tickle the taste buds.”
The theme of the parade on Saturday was “Moxie Salutes the Red, White & Blue.”
The creator of the beverage was a Maine native, Dr. Augustin Thompson, whose brew was originally marketed 132 years ago as “Moxie Nerve Foods” in Lowell, Massachusetts. What started as a cure for a variety of ills is currently bottled in New Hampshire.
It’s unclear why author Potter, who wrote “The Moxie Mystique,” was so wild about the beverage.
“Frank was crazy about it,” said festival coordinator Tracey Steuber. “It was a drink that Maine kids grew up on. Why? I have no idea.”
Before he died, Anicetti closed the store that had been in his family for three generations and auctioned off much of the memorabilia.
The store is now a pub, but the new owners have retained orange awnings and a door in a nod to the orange-and-black Moxie colors. The pub is called “Frank’s.”
Inside, there’s a plaque with Anicetti’s likeness inscribed with the words: “Mr. Moxie, 1940-2017, Always Remembered.”
Adams and her husband said they knew Frank well through the Moxie Congress, and were touched by the new owners’ efforts.
“It’s so nice to see what they did for him,” Adams said. “They worked so hard —what a tribute.”