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Using Peeps to create art an annual tradition at Carroll Arts Center

How many Peeps does it take to make a Statue of Peeperty?

Hundreds, according to Sydney Blacksten.

The 10-year-old fifth-grader at William Winchester Elementary and her family should know. They have entered the Carroll Arts Council's Peeps event for the last three years and used hundreds of the marshmallow treat in the process.

"Right now, I think we have 500-some on her so far," Sydney said, on the number of candies used to create a replica of the New York City icon. . "We're almost done. We have to finish the face."

Michael Reilly and his daughter, Edie, used about 20 Peeps in their "Haunted Mansion" diorama.

The two have participated in the event since its beginnings six years ago.

They take turns choosing theme. Last year, Edie selected a "Gulliver's Travels" scene, so this year was her father's choice.

Previous themes have included Norman Rockwell, the Addams Family and the Jonas Brothers.

"We have a good time," Reilly said, of creating the diorama with his 13-year-old. "We can't do it all at once. An hour a day."

A fundraiser for the Carroll Arts Center, the Peep Show has been a success since its start, according to Sandra Oxx, executive director.

"We had 60 exhibitors the first year, now close to 200," Oxx said. "Visitors have exploded. Over 12,000 people walked through the doors last year."

Oxx is always impressed with the creativity in using the traditional Easter candy to create sculptures and mosaics. The distinctive yellow figures are also featured in dioramas and in stop-action movies.

"It's really an amazing display of talent," Oxx said.

The Reillys always enjoy seeing the other entries.

"Some of them are really unbelievable," Michael Reilly said. "It's amazing, the things you can do if you try."

Sydney and her family have been experimenting with dying the Peeps green, as it has been difficult finding green Peeps for the Statue of Peeperty.

"It gets mushy and the sugar falls off," admitted Sydney's mother Tracie, of dying the peeps. "Spray painting works well."

Another secret they recommend is letting the Peeps dry out.

"We try to set them out so they get harder before we use them," Sydney said.

"When they're stale, they're easier to cut up," Michael Reilly said.

Mount Airy Library is hosting a Peeps Parade on April 1. Children ages 11 to 17 will be able to make a diorama featuring their favorite book or movie character with Peeps and other supplies provided by the library.

"We try to have food-based programs. They're very popular," said Hannah Cobb, Mount Airy children's librarian. "Peeps are a lot of fun. You can do a lot of different things with them. I've talked about it with a few teens who are excited about it."

The Blackstens and the Reillys have kept some of their past creations, to varying degrees of success.

"After a while, the Peeps get mushy," Michael Reilly said. "You have to throw them out."

"Todd Peep is looking pretty darn good," said Tracie, of the 5-foot creation modeled after former Ravens player Todd Heap three years ago. "They do keep for a long time. They just get kind of hard. They're pretty cool to have as a memento."

The Peep Show will run March 28-April 7, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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