AUGUSTA – According to the dictionary, “moxie” means courage, perseverance, guts. It represents the grit and spirit of Mainers, several testified Monday.

Because the soft drink Moxie was invented in Maine in 1884, because it is celebrated each year at a Lisbon Moxie festival, and because it represents what Mainers are made of, Moxie deserves to become the official soft drink of Maine, said fans who turned out wearing Moxie orange at a State House hearing Monday.

Often their testimony was as colorful as their clothing.

Maine humorist and Moxie advocate Gary Crocker said he lives on a dirt road in West Gardiner, and travels the country.

“The term Moxie has come to be part of our lexicon and representative of our great state and some say, our nation,” Crocker said in an exaggerated Maine accent. Moxie has been used as a word by statesmen, actors and business leaders “to make a simple but important point. We’ve got what it takes to get the job done. We’ve got nerve,” Crocker said.

The basic meaning of the word was born when Moxie inventor Dr. Augustin Thompson’s Moxie Nerve Food “began to push its way past the palates of the populace” at the turn of the century, Crocker said. “Thereafter, whenever anyone exhibited an uncommon amount of nerve, that person is said to ‘have moxie.'”

Lawmakers have “an almost mystical opportunity” to pass L.D. 85 and connect Maine with a word that makes a powerful and positive statement each time the word is uttered, Crocker said.

Lewiston resident Fred Goldrup, 71, who asked Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, to sponsor the Moxie bill, offered more Moxie history, and acknowledged that some think Moxie doesn’t taste good. It’s an acquired taste, he explained.

There is no other beverage indicative of the native Mainer, Goldrup said. “A true Mainer is not afraid to courageously take the initiative. A true Mainer, either you like him or you don’t. There’s no in-between. That’s the same with Moxie – you like it, or you don’t.”

He summarized his own connection to Moxie – which he bragged was the oldest soda continuously on the market – by dramatically opening up a can, raising it high, offering a toast to Moxie and taking a few sips.

Susan Conroy, Lisbon Moxie Festival co-coordinator, said between 20,000 and 30,000 people come to Lisbon each summer for the festival, and she answers e-mail year-round about Moxie and the festival.

Moxie and Maine have been on many television programs in recent years, including “Good Morning America,” and programs on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.

She and Frank Anicetti, who’s known as “The Moxie Man” in Lisbon Falls, said passage of the bill would further legitimize the Moxie attitude. “Moxie makes Mainers mighty,” Conroy said.

Lisbon Town Manager Curtis Lunt said his sons grew up drinking Moxie “and are now 6 feet, 4 inches tall, as strong as Paul Bunyan,” he mused. He didn’t know if it was the good Maine air or Moxie that made them so big and strong.

Lisbon’s sponsorship of the festival has brought national publicity, he said. Passage of the bill would further legitimize the Moxie spirit, he and Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Charles Morrison testified.

No one testified against the bill.

At the end of the hearing, the State and Local Government Committee took the unusual move of voting right then. It voted unanimously to recommend to the House and Senate that Moxie become the official soft drink of Maine.

Moxie fans broke out in applause. Merrill Lewis of New Hampshire, the national secretary of the New England Moxie Congress, stood up and praised legislators by saying – you guessed it – “You’ve got Moxie.”

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