Sandra “Sammie” Mucha will spend her Fourth of July in a similar fashion that she did in 1958, when she was named the inaugural Watermelon Days Queen. Mucha was selected over 21 other Muscatine teenagers in a good old-fashioned beauty contest. Mucha submitted a photo in a bathing suit that was taken by Bamford Studios. “We went down and had our photos taken. I wore a black one-piece bathing suit and sent it in, and we just waited to see who the chamber picked.”
The competition was put on by the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the winner would act as an ambassador for the city, working with the watermelon farmers for the Watermelon Days Festival. “This was such a big thing, I think there were almost 30,000 people there. As I stood on the stage, I think the stage was at Second Street and Sycamore Street, no matter which way I looked, all I could see were people,” said Mucha.
Mucha also was the feature part of a performance by The Great Martel, a hypnotist who once put her in a trance for eight hours for a show where the grand finale took place at Tom Bruner Field. “My parents were very worried. I have a fear of all things that fly, and bugs were flying all around me. My mom thought I was dead because I just laid there,” Mucha recalled.
Mucha was 17 when she was crowned Watermelon Queen and transitioned this fame into a career in modeling, which led to her touring the country. She married her first husband, divorced and remarried, but at the end of that marriage she had three children and missed her family, so in 1986 she moved home to Muscatine. “I was unlucky in love, but I had a great family that I missed.”
Mucha came home and began a career as a bartender. “I am a very social person. Being a bartender was the perfect job for me. My dad was a part owner of the old Triangle Inn, so that is where I learned how to tend bar. Then I worked at Mike’s Hilltop Tap. They are like family to me.”
Mucha is now retired. She was thrilled when she received the phone call inviting her to be the parade marshal. “I still get goose bumps thinking about it,” she said.