LISBON – Before chugging four cans of Moxie in one minute – enough to win him the title of Moxie king – Carl White worked on his breathing.
“I practice at water fountains,” said the 18-year-old from Orono, who spoke about his slurping-while-breathing workouts with the earnestness of Tiger Woods on the green.
“It’s important to me because I had to wait five years to compete,” White said.
The victory tasted sweet, even if the soda didn’t.
In all, 11 contestants entered the chugging contest held Saturday afternoon, the midpoint of the three-day Moxie Festival.
Earlier in the day, more than 25,000 people turned out for the annual parade, police Lt. Dan Michel said. “There were a ton of people here,” he said.
Many folks – holding Moxie sodas, sipping Moxie floats or licking Moxie cones – stuck around for the guzzling.
Organizer Shaun Arndt began the competition with a dare, “Are you guys ready to chug?”
The drinkers, 10 men and one woman, sat in a semicircle of folding chairs.
Volunteers placed two cans of Moxie in front of each as Arndt read the rules.
Rule one: if you must throw up, avoid the PA system.
“If you get it on the speakers, you bought them,” Arndt warned.
Rule two: Moxie spilled on a shirt doesn’t count.
“The deal is you gotta chug it all,” he said.
A moment later, with the contestants poised to pop the tops of their cans, Arndt gave the command.
Everyone seemed to finish the first can in about 10 seconds. As they sucked down the second, T-shirt-clad volunteers placed two more cans in front of each chugger.
A couple of men gasped.
Chris Mott of Lisbon, who had never tried Moxie before, turned red and wiped tears from his eyes as he drank.
The crowd began to chant, “Chug! Chug!”
As the final seconds approached, Arndt counted backwards. Then, he yelled “Stop!”
Mott sat back in his seat, still wiping tears.
“It tastes like the liquid that comes from a used coffee filter,” Mott later groaned.
One man, covered his mouth and burped into his hand, afraid of what else might come out. Nothing did.
In seconds, Arndt found his winner: White.
The Orono youth stood in triumph and raised his hands in the air.
He told the crowd how he’d tried to compete when he was 13. He was turned away, told that the minimum age was 18.
Holding a 12-pack of Moxie and two T-shirts – his grand-prize package – White later described practicing at home by drinking Coca-Cola Vault while his parents timed him.
Sometimes he’d drink Moxie, too, but it’s too expensive to chug often.
Why was it so important to him?
“It’s the satisfaction of something I’ve waited five years for,” he said.
And he was thirsty.