LISBON — Some people collect old Moxie bottles, signs, advertisements and memorabilia just for the love of it.

“Some just like the hoopla,” said Merrill Lewis, president of the Moxie Congress. “There is a lot of hoopla involved with Moxie.”

For Lewis and the other 100 members of the Moxie Congress, this weekend’s Moxie Festival is an important time of year and the main event at their annual Moxie Week. Many brought their Moxie collections to swap, sell and show off. Items included some of the first bottles that held the soft drink, back when it was considered nerve food and a general cure for anything that ailed you.

“Now, you just have to have nerve to drink it,” Lewis said.

Pete Steelman of Mystic, Conn., brought his collection of bottles and memorabilia to Lisbon with a mission in mind: “My wife said I can’t keep it.”

A retired veterinarian, Steelman said he used old signs and other collectibles to decorate his office. When he retired and handed his practice off to another veterinarian, he tried to bring his collection home.

“I can appreciate my wife’s edict,” he said. “I sold a large percentage of it off, but I had some at home. Things have changed and we’re trying to downsize, so it has to go.”

Lewis left his collection of old bottles and signs at home in Manchester, N.H.

“I have a cellar full of bottles and signs but not of the really good variety,” he said. “I have rusty old stuff, because I can’t afford the good stuff.”

Lewis said he got interested in Moxie when he was in college. He lived in Syracuse, N.Y., for a time, and would bring Moxie back there when he visited New Hampshire.

“I really just liked watching the look on people’s faces when they drank it,” he said. “I had a few bottles and cans of various vintages that I kept, a small collection.”

When he moved back to Manchester, he lived down the street from a Moxie-bottle-shaped refreshment stand. It inspired him to expand his modest collection and to get involved in preserving the drink’s history.

“I was a block away from that stand, and I watched as they started restoring it,” he said.

Eventually, he helped get that building, a 32-foot-tall structure, relocated to the Moxie Museum in Union, Maine.

Members of the congress on Sunday will take their Moxie collections to Kennebunkport for their annual meeting. They’re planning a tour of the Londonderry, N.H., bottling plant on Monday. Events throughout the week will take them to Waldoboro and Damariscotta.

“But this is the granddaddy event for us,” he said.

The festival might even be the thing that saved Moxie for its fans. While the drink inspired the festival and all of its hoopla, the festival has inspired more people to try the drink.

“If it had not been for the festival, Moxie may have disappeared from the shelves as a brand,” Lewis said. “So the Moxie company owes us, meaning the festival and the people in the congress, that it still exists.”

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The Moxie Festival will continue Sunday with the Chief Worumbo Androscoggin River Race at 11 a.m. at the Durham boat launch and the Moxie Car Show from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lisbon High School.


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