From many little yellow peeps, one artistic family saw a giant yellow bird.
At the sixth annual "Peep Show" in downtown Westminster, the massive 3,810-marshmallow-strong Big Bird drew the biggest oohs and ahhs among the young kids and older fans who filled the Carroll County Arts Council building on Main Street Saturday, all there to take in a host of candy-inspired creations.
The "Long Live Sesame Peep" display, complete with a trash-canned Oscar the Grouch, was created by Robert Mondor and his family — wife Ann, son Sean, 10, and daughter Lauren, 8, all of Westminster — and was just one of many pop-culture-inspired displays at the Easter event, which has become a major fundraiser for the council each year.
"I love it," said Betty Frazier, 82, of Owings Mills, who said she's visited the event four years running. "I love peeps, I always have an Easter basket of peeps, and I just love everything they do. Very unique."
There was a Bart Simpson made of peeps, a Honey Boo Boo-inspired peep diorama, and multiple entries showcasing the Baltimore Ravens victory in this year's Super Bowl, complete with little peep players. There were also entries inspired by recent headline news, such as the "Habemus Peepam: We have a peep!" display inspired by the selection of the new Roman Catholic pope, and a "Same-peep Marriage" display, a nod to the same-sex marriage cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mondor, a Maryland State Police trooper, said he and his family loved the idea of turning the little bird marshmallows into Big Bird, and were further inspired when the Sesame Street character made a guest appearance in the recent presidential election cycle. They spent about a month putting the "family project" together, he said.
"People are always looking for something that's trending," said Claudia Rogers, a Westminster resident and the council's office manager, who said schools, businesses and local families all submit entries.
Celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, Peeps — the traditionally yellow but now multi-colored confections — are trending themselves, with events similar to Westminster's popping up all across the country. The Westminster event even drew a news crew from NBC Nightly News last week.
Traffic was congested in Westminster's town center Saturday, a boon for the local business owners, organizers said. Families streamed into the council's old theater house on Main Street, past a traffic sign reading "Peep Show."
"When we first started doing it, we got a lot of eyebrows raised, people saying, 'What are you doing?' But now people get the joke," Rogers said. "What makes it so great is it's a family event and people bring their children and grandchildren."
Most people in the crowd did seem to be there for a laugh, taking in the creativity of the entries with a chuckle or an isn't-that-clever glance at a family member. The kids weren't picking away at the candied creations, but they were definitely eating it up.
Tristen Bolton, 8, there with his parents Kat and Dan Bolton, had his eye on the Pokemon-inspired "Peep-a-choo" entry. "He was waiting for it," said his mother.
Gary and Joan Levin of Hunt Valley were at the show with their two grandsons, Simon and Ben Holland, who were visiting from Washington. The boys hopped from one display to the next, frequently explaining the cultural references missed by their grandparents.
"Look. You see how interested they are. They've been waiting for this for a week," Gary Levin said.
"My friends who live here told me about it, and because the boys were going to be with us this weekend, I thought it would be their only opportunity to see it," Joan Levin said, as she approached the Big Bird.
"They said it's life-size, and it looks like it," she said with a laugh.
Rogers said the event, which sells voting chips to guests so they can place votes for their favorite entries as they go, has been bringing in about $3,000 a day this year. In past years, it has raised about $20,000, all of which goes back to community programming at the council — scholarships, free movie nights, art galleries and theater classes for kids.
"It's great to see the building so full," said Tabetha White, the council's theater technical coordinator.
Outside, Lisa Barron of Union Bridge headed back to the car with her mother, Linda Stafford of Pittsburgh, her three daughters — Hannah, Abbe and Sarah — and one of the girls' friends, after taking in the show.
"It's really impressive and amazing to see how artistic people can be," said Hannah, 14.
"And with peeps!" said her mother. The girls and their grandmother laughed.
"It was a fun experience," said Abbe, 13. "I'm looking forward to it next year."
The "Peep Show" runs every day, including Easter Sunday, through April 7, between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., at the Carroll County Arts Council, 91 West Main Street in Westminster.
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