New Hampshire: When Bethlehem Met the Brazilian Beauty

Back in 1954 Bethlehem New Hampshire held an event called the Sunfire Festival.  Someone had the brilliant idea to invite an attractive Brazilian lady named Maria Marta Hacker Rocha (who was runner up that year in the “Miss Universe” contest) to be queen of the festival.

She accepted, and arrived in New Hampshire. Her sister, Mrs. Lucy Bernard of Revere, Massachusetts acted as interpreter for Maria, who spoke little English.  George T. Noyes of Bethlehem (who was a member of the Governor's Council from 1951-1953) was using her appearance to promote the locations of Bethlehem, Grafton County, and New Hampshire.

She also attended a luncheon at the Eagle Hotel in Concord, New Hampshire where she was introduced to various state officials, and the press.  There she “got a big kiss from Atty. Gen. Louis C. Wyman, official greeter for the occasion,” and was crowned by Governor Hugh Gregg.

Miss Brazil had lost the Miss Universe contest to Miriam Stevenson of the USA. As Catalina was the major sponsor of the pageant in its early years, the tie-breaking judgment finally came down to who has the better body. One of the judges disclosed that it was Miss Brazil's “bulging hips” which cost her the crown although her face was said to have been “the most gorgeous in the contest”. 

At least Martha Rocha got something–a Queen of the Sunfire Festival Crown, a “Whooper Award, and the car that Stevenson won in her Miss USA prize package as a consolatory prize.


*Additional Reading*

Bethlehem NH Events

-Defining a “national type:” Brazilian beauty contests in the 1920s-

Martha Rocha Photographs

-Newspaper Photograph & Article Showing Gov. Hugh Gregg Crowing Maria Rocha-

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