LISBON — Every year, hundreds of people come to the tiny town of Lisbon for the Moxie Festival, an annual celebration of all things Moxie.

Perhaps no single event at the Moxie Festival encapsulates the annual celebration of a sugary drink concocted in the 19th century than the Moxie chugging contest, where six strangers duke it out to see who can drink the most cans of Moxie in a two-minute period.

Reigning champion Beau Bradstreet of the Aroostook County town of Bridgewater exuded a calm confidence as he approached the competition table, where a 12-pack of Moxie and a bucket for cans awaited him.

“I don’t feel much pressure,” he admitted minutes before the competition started. “I’m going to do what I can do and hope for the best.”

Bradstreet has dominated the competition since he first attended the festival, winning the competition hands down for seven years in a row.

“A couple of friends of mine from down here were up (in Bridgewater) snowmobiling, and they seen me drinking Moxie and said, ‘We have a whole festival of Moxie back home,’ ” recalled Bradstreet. “So I came down, saw there was a chugging competition, entered it and won it the first year.”

Among Bradstreet’s challengers were a couple of first-time competitors eager to dethrone the king: Breanna Glover of New Hampshire and Trevayne Jackson of Wilton.

“I’ve always loved Moxie, and, like, I think it would be totally cool to not only be able to say I love Moxie but also I won this weird competition, you know?” said Glover.

But as soon as the competition began, it was clear the race was in the can. Bradstreet coolly lifted the first can, chugged it, unhurriedly set it down, and reached for the next. Beside him, both newcomers and seasoned hands visibly struggled to down the bitter, carbonated beverage.

“I was expecting I would just drink it, you know chug-a-lug,” said Jackson. “The first can is like ‘Oh boy, oh boy.’ The second can is ‘Ohhhh.’ Then the third can I started gagging, but I kept it down.”

When the dust cleared, Bradstreet had easily claimed victory with six completed cans, nearly triple the number Jackson and Glover had each consumed.

“He always wins,” said an unsurprised Julie-Ann Baumer, who organizes the chugging competition. “He’s drank more soda before. … He can shotgun, what, 10 cans?”

Bradstreet said there was never a moment when he didn’t think he’d win.

“I just set them up and started dumping them down,” said Bradstreet with a smile.

Bradstreet said he’ll be back to defeat any challengers next year.

While the festival is ostensibly a celebration of a divisive carbonated beverage – you either hate it or you love it – it’s also about a community coming together.

“It’s just a community spirit that keeps growing every year, a little bit bigger and bigger,” said Ken Chase, 71, who’s lived in Lisbon his entire life. “It’s great.”

“It’s all the people getting together and enjoying the old Moxie, which I don’t really drink, but a lot of people like it,” said Norm Fornour, 64, of Lisbon. “It’s a good time for everybody.”

According to Fornour, the growth of the Moxie Festival has also helped Lisbon grow as a community.

Specifically, he pointed to Frank’s, a new pub that’s opened in the old Kennebec Fruit Co. building, which used to be known affectionately as the Moxie Store. The pub’s namesake, “Moxie Man” Frank Anicetti, is largely responsible for the Moxie Festival becoming what it is today through his singular passion for the product. Anicetti died last May, but his legacy was on display throughout the festival, with dozens of people wearing shirts acknowledging his impact on the community.

“I think he would be honored that his legacy is still being carried on,” said Chase. “He was an icon.”

With all that said, Chase admitted that he doesn’t really care for Moxie.

“When I was a kid, my aunt used to give me that every time I had an upset stomach,” said Chase. “I don’t know if she gave it to me because she thought that it was actually going to help my stomach or if I’d stop complaining.”

Nathan Strout can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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