LISBON — Lisbon councilors on Tuesday delayed a vote to cancel the annual Moxie Festival scheduled for July.

The council is waiting until June 2 to decide, with an eye toward postponing the festival until later in the year and hosting a modified, smaller event for the Lisbon community. The annual Moxie Festival includes a large parade and attracts around 30,000 people.

Town Manager Diane Barnes recommended the festival be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted the state to limit the size of social gatherings.

“I think Moxie would taste really good at the end of September,” said councilor Norm Albert. “We can even make this an end of summer, first early fall thing. We’re not bound by any sort of July date.”

Lisbon Economic and Community Development Director Brett Richardson said he had the idea to pivot from the traditional cluster of activity “to more of a spread-out, linear type of event that will leverage one of Lisbon’s greatest, which is the river and the trail.”

Nearly half of the state’s agricultural fairs including the Topsham Fair have canceled for 2020. So have most major festivals such as Bath Heritage Days, the Yarmouth Clam Festival and the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland. Richmond Days, scheduled for late July,  has been canceled for 2020. Bowdoinham is still planning for Celebrate Bowdoinham, which happens in September, though some of the normal activities may be nixed to allow for social distancing.

Council Chairman Allen Ward said the safety of the public will be the priority.

Mark Stevens is the director of Lisbon’s park and recreation department assigned with helping plan the event. He said the town doesn’t have data on how the event financially benefits businesses in town. But it does attract 30,000 people, which means people will stop for gas and shop at convenience stores. =

It’s also a boost for Frank’s Restaurant and Pub, which sells Moxie merchandise. Frank’s co-owner Traci Austin said while it doesn’t make the business a ton of money, not selling merchandise during the festival makes no money. The building at the corner of Main  Street and Route 196 used to house the Kennebec Fruit Co., a local landmark owned by the late Frank Anicetti who was known as the “Moxie Man” until he died in 2017. The connection to Moxie gives Frank’s a tourist following.

“It’s definitely going to hurt the bottom line but so did  (the coronavirus pandemic), Austin said. “It’s a double whammy for the town of Lisbon in respect to that because we had (the coronavirus outbreak) and then are not having the moxie festival in its full capacity.”

The report on the 2019 Moxie Festival shows that the event cost $29,637 and made $32,316 in revenue that included $20,795 in sponsorships. The remainder came from vendor and merchandise sales.

Ultimately, Moxie Festival isn’t about making money, Steven said.

“That’s not the reason why we do it,” he said. “It’s to bring people together. In this case, we can’t bring people together.”

 

 

 

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