LISBON — Lisbon has called off plans for a scaled-down Moxie Festival this fall, as restrictions to quell the spread of COVID-19 continue to limit the size of public gatherings.
In June, town councilors canceled the full festival, traditionally held in July, but tried to try to plan a smaller event for residents in the fall, if possible.
However, the state is limiting outdoor gatherings to 100 people and inside groups to 50 people in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus. It would be counterproductive to plan any event that could attract more people than that, said Mark Stevens, Lisbon’s director of parks and recreation. His office helps plan the festival.
Stevens said Lisbon expects to hire a new Moxie Festival coordinator in October to start planning for the 2021 event.
After calling off the full-scale festival, councilors hoped that cases of COVID-19 might drop low enough that larger outdoor events could be scheduled, Councilor Norm Albert said Friday, “but we haven’t seen that.”
The festival is a boost for local businesses like Frank’s Restaurant and Pub, which sells Moxie merchandise. The building at the corner of Main Street and Route 196 formerly housed the Kennebec Fruit Co., a local landmark owned by the late Frank Anicetti, who was known as the “Moxie Man” until his death 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),” Frank’s co-owner Traci Austin said in June about the loss of the festival. The pandemic and inability to hold the festival at full capacity is a double whammy for the town, she said.
Attempts to reach Austin Friday were unsuccessful.
With the town unable to hold a fall Moxie-themed event, Albert said the town has shifted its focus to Moxie Plaza, a section of lower Main Street the town blocked off to create a 4,000-square-foot outdoor dining and community space.
Lined with tables and sheltered with tents, the area allows patrons to socially distance, “and use Moxie Plaza as a place for residents to go and have that Moxie spirit for those few days we have during the festivals, to carry us through the pandemic,” Albert said.
Customers of Frank’s Restaurant and Pub and Flux Restaurant and Bar can dine there with the occasional live music, announced on the Moxie Plaza Facebook page.
Brett Richardson, the town’s economic and community development director, said Moxie Plaza could continue through the fall, as long as people are using it. There uncertainty about the shift to indoor dining as colder weather approaches and how patrons will respond to that, he added.
“I think we’re going to see folks willing to put coats on, blankets on; folks who are willing to adapt to cooler weather just to have the opportunity to feel comfortable while the COVID situation continues,” Richardson said.