LISBON — Over the past 35 years, the Moxie Festival has become part of the town’s identity. With the theme of this year’s festival being “Moxie Through the Decades,” one float will remember the origins of Lisbon’s community celebrations, before the town was festooned in Moxie orange.
The idea came last year, as Linda Barschdorf was watching the festival parade, feeling that something was missing: honoring Frontier Days. So, she decided to create a float for this year’s Moxie Festival that will honor a celebration from the past.
Organized by the Lisbon chapter of the U.S. Junior Chamber — the “Jaycees,” a leadership and training organization — Frontier Days ran from 1958-62 and again from 1977-82.
On Tuesday, visiting Barschdorf ’s float and drinking the carbonated beverage synonymous with the town, Bud Agathos and Noyes Lawrence recalled the early days of the Jaycees and Frontier Days.
“We’re the originators of the weekend celebration in the town of Lisbon,” Agathos said. “We were just excited about the town, that’s all.”
The Jaycees were active and at the forefront of the community in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Both men recalled building a skating rink for the town in the early days of the Jaycees. A program to help provide eyeglasses for kids in the community stuck out as one of Lawrence’s proudest accomplishments.
As they sipped their Moxie, they admitted that listing all of the projects they took part in would be tough to do: The Lisbon Jaycees were once nationally recognized for completing 63 projects to benefit the community in one year.
“The great thing about it, we were all young enough that when somebody decided a project, nobody ever said anything negative,” Lawrence said. “If you suggested a project, it was ‘Hey, let’s do it,’ and you usually ended up being the chairman.”
“But you always had help,” Agathos said.
The group had close to 100 members at its peak with the first Jaycees in Lisbon, and its largest project was Frontier Days.
The event was a first-of-its-kind weekend to celebrate Lisbon. To pay for it, the Jaycees hosted fried clam suppers and barbecues and used their connections in the community to raise money.
“It wasn’t like a merchants association, but there were a lot of businessmen,” Lawrence said. “The businessmen really got involved.”
Lawrence and Agathos, both 87, have lived in Lisbon their entire lives, graduating from high school together in 1950, and Lawrence worked for Agathos when he was postmaster. Some of their fondest memories — the ones that bring the most laughs — come from Frontier Days and the Jaycees.
While the group’s membership dwindled and those involved got burnt out, Lawrence helped organize the parade in future years. He remembers a specific Moxie parade, one he calls a “two-stogie parade.”
“We put on some wicked parades, I’ll tell you,” Lawrence said, “the year the town had a 200th anniversary and Moxie Days.”
He added, “We got together and said, ‘Let’s put on the biggest parade they’ve ever seen in the town of Lisbon. The parade had 40 floats, we figured it had 4,000 people. It was three hours long.”
Lawrence said a neighbor watching from his lawn would later tell him he went through two cigars during the lengthy parade. And he admitted, when he saw the finished product, it may have been a little long, but it showed a commitment that drove the two men in those early years.
Those early efforts will be honored by Barschdorf’s float. She has worked meticulously with former fellow Jaycee Jo-Jean Keller and friend Sandra Marstaller over the past three weeks to prepare a proper tribute.
While the Jaycee organization was only open to men ages 18 to 40 at the time, Barschdorf and many other women who were spouses of Jaycees played influential roles in the group. The Jaycee women were just as involved in the community projects and planning, and were considered part of the group. Barschdorf and Keller belonged to the second incarnation of the Jaycees in Lisbon from 1977-82. They will honor those years and the original members with their float.
As the second iteration of Jaycees began to dwindle around 1982, Barschdorf said, a timely photo provided the spark for the Moxie Festival. She snapped a photo of Frank Anicetti, the colorful owner of the Kennebec Fruit Co. store in 1978 that was later used in the book “Moxie Mystique” by Frank Potter.
At the last Frontier Days in 1982, Anicetti invited Potter to come to his store and sign copies of the book, which explored the history of the distinct beverage. The signing was such a hit that Potter was invited to come again the following year, which sparked new life into the notion of a town festival and a rebranding of the Moxie theme in 1984.
Bud Agathos and Noyes Lawrence, both 87, recently shared memories and laughs about their time with the Lisbon Jaycees and Frontier Days, the forerunner to the town’s popular Moxie Festival. (Chris Quattrucci/Times Record)
The Moxie Festival
When: July 13-15
What: “Three days of ‘wicked cool’ Moxie events,” according to the website. Including: fireworks, block party, entertainment, parade, vendors, petting zoo, car show, 5K run, concert in the park, and more.