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Peeps Madness

Marshmallow creatures inspire creativity

Sam Born began selling Peeps in the early 1920s, in a small Pennsylvania grocery store he owned, under a sign that read Just Born.
    Nowadays March brings Peeps madness.
    The craze took off in 1953 as cellophane selections of packaged Peeps flew off neighborhood grocery shelves.
    In my childhood Easter basket, I found one color and one flavor of Peeps: yellow chicks with black, beady eyes.
    No longer just an Easter basket staple, these fluffy sugar-coated marshmallow critters are for every season.
    We have Valentine’s, Halloween and Christmas Peeps. We’ve seen bunnies, bats, ghosts, cats, Teddy bears, snowmen and gingerbread Peeps.
    Colors have expanded, too. Fluorescent hues: yellow, pink, lavender, blue, orange and green. Plus just plain white.
    National Harbor has a store devoted solely to Peeps.
    Peep contests are now common.
    The first Peep Off was organized in Maryland in 1984 on the first Saturday after Easter, when Peeps are discounted. It drew six participants.
    The goal of Shawn Sparks’ brainchild: to eat as many marshmallow chicks as you could in 30 minutes. The current record holder, Dave Smith of Sacramento, put down 102 in that time.
    You don’t have to eat a Peep to get in on the fun.
    The Peeps home page is overflowing with contests this time of year, in honor of Peeps’ Easter origin.
    The sixth annual Carroll County Arts Center Peepshow in Westminster displays hundreds of marshmallow masterpieces. Some are for sale.
    Feeling creative and have lots of time on your hands? Dive right into the Washington Post’s 7th diorama contest.
    Maryland’s Eastern Shore Land Conservancy invites you to use the marshmallow creatures to create your vision of the Peepstern Shore Conservation Center.
    Peeps go boating in BoatUS Foundation’s second annual Diorama Contest. For this one, you create a full Peeps diorama of “spectacularly scenic depictions of history or modern culture.” Send photos to be entered in a drawing for a pair of inflatable life jackets. And a year of bragging rights.
    Hurry! Many of these contests have deadlines that are just around the corner. The deadline for the Washington Post’s seventh diorama contest has already passed.
    See www.marshmallowpeeps.com for contests, timelines and results.
    For creatures made from marshmallow, corn syrup, gelatin and carnauba wax, Peeps inspire lots of creativity.
    And lots of love. Over 700 million are ingested annually, making Peeps America’s most popular non-chocolate candy.