The Collective Sigh of a Community

The Maine town of Lisbon pulled off its 36th Moxie Festival over the past weekend.  It’s a distinctively different event, difficult to define.  30,000 people converge on an old mill town to celebrate a soft drink.  They wear orange.  They run, march in a parade, and obviously, drink soda.

For the organizing committee, the festival is more of an endurance race.  Planning starts in September and rolls along at a steady pace, picking up speed in April.  June is frenetic and lots of things happen behind the orange-hued curtains of festival preparation, although social media creates a continuous façade of excitement.  The committee has always been small, but as the Moxie Festival machine gains steam, it picks up volunteers who show up and give their time and energy.  The three-day event happens.

This year, I worked behind the scenes on the festival.  I wrote a few press releases, created 3,000 words of content for an advertising supplement, sold Moxie gear all day on Saturday, and then worked in the snack shack at Sunday’s car show.  This year’s festival was difficult and different without parade organizer and community leader, Gina Mason.  I think many of us were going through the motions and “doing it for Gina.”  But you know, we pulled it off.  The festival was pretty awesome, from what I’ve heard and seen.

For festival organizers and the town of Lisbon, this is the week we pat ourselves on the back and breathe a collective sigh of relief.  We go back to weeding our gardens, taking vacations, and enjoying the rest of summer.

Today, I share with blog readers, a portion of the newspaper insert’s content about Lisbon’s beloved Gina Mason.

(Gina Crafts with her neighborhood posse, photograph courtesy of Bryce Hamilton)     

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember Clara Desjardins.  A renowned dancer, Desjardins operated a studio in Auburn for 60 years, ending in 1997.  Decades of dancers learned the basics from Desjardins, with each year’s lessons culminating in a May recital.  As the recital approached, it was not uncommon for performers to get the jitters and Desjardins would adamantly remind them that no matter what happened, “the show must go on.”

Gina Mason started walking when she was 11 months old and according to her mother, Carmella Crafts, she took her first dance classes with Desjardins when she was 2 years old.  A glance at the 1971 dance recital program features an 11-year-old Gina performing both a solo routine called “Senorita” and with friends Andrea Graziano and Susan Stass in a number called “Hawaii Five-O.”  Gina Mason learned early that “the show must go on.”

After many years of dancing, Gina started taking baton lessons and then marching in parades.  According to her mother, she loved parades.  “We went to every parade around,” said Crafts.  Soon, Gina was twirling with the high school majorettes and by the time she entered high school, she was the head majorette and ran her own baton twirling business called “Gina’s Stepperettes.”  Photos of early town parades show Gina leading the high school band or her “Stepperettes.”

(Gina Crafts after an early town parade, photo courtesy of Bryce Hamilton)

After she married, she and husband Rick started building parade floats for the Open Door Bible Church.  Their floats won every year.  In 2000, she took over the coordination of the Moxie Festival Parade.  Work on parade planning would go on almost year-round from the Masons’ home in Lisbon.  Their dining room table was “command central” for mailings and parade line ups.  The night before the event, the whole Mason clan would be washing vehicles, putting flowers in the front of Gina’s John Deere Gator (which she used to coordinate floats and follow the parade), and loading the Gator and parade supplies on the trailer.  At 4:00 a.m. the next day, the Masons would be on the road to Capital Avenue and the parade line up.

Rick said, “I just think it was in her blood” regarding Gina’s love of parades.

Gina died unexpectedly on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.  On a chair in her home office, her Moxie bag sits, packed and ready to go to the first festival planning meeting of 2018.  Her loss has left a hole in the hearts of her family, friends, and the Moxie Festival committee.  Her unmatched energy, her hometown pride, and her drive to present a wonderful parade each year…Gina Mason is irreplaceable.  Those who knew Gina knew she always faced difficult circumstances head on.  Under her guidance, the parade always started on time and this year will be no different.  She will be loved and missed and in her honor, the show will go on!

(2013 Moxie Festival Parade, Gina Mason in the Gator)

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