Pushing their PEEPshow entry on a dolly from Peterson Hall down Westminster’s Main Street, McDaniel College’s assistant professor of art, Chloe Irla, and the college’s physical plant staff took an hour to transport the replica of McDaniel’s Ward Memorial Arch from the school to the Carroll Arts Center on Friday, stopping periodically to shovel snow out of the way.
The group was determined to deliver the college’s first official entry which celebrates their 150th anniversary.
“We just wanted to get it there,” said Irla, who created the arch. “It’s not like delivering a cake where it can ruin the event. Even though pieces fell off, we can fix them.”
The entry, “McDaniel Peeps Celebrate 150 Years!” is one of approximately 150 entries this year, including nine movies. Carroll County Arts Council Executive Director Sandy Oxx said the annual PEEPshow is their biggest fundraiser of the year.
“We raised $80,000 last year and brought 26,000 people to Westminster,” Oxx said.
This year’s show will be held Thursday, March 29 through Tuesday, April 10. The center is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays (including Easter Sunday) and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free and attendees can pay to vote for their favorite entries. Online voting is also welcome at www.CarrollCountyArtsCouncil.org.
Irla said McDaniel’s entry consists of 1,950 Peeps and more than $1,000 was spent on the candies. She started the piece in February and worked on the 4-foot tall, 5-foot wide structure for nearly 40 hours.
“With McDaniel having never entered the PEEPshow before, this was the time to do it,” Irla said. “We wanted to do something big because this is a big year for us. It’s also an important event for the community so we wanted to be a part of it.”
Irla, a McDaniel alum, said she used her two-dimensional and three-dimensional design skills for the project.
“I’m used to building things but I had never worked with Peeps,” she said. “I had to get to know what they were like. They work very well with hot glue and they shed sugar like crazy. Some are easy to apply because they’re packaged in strips.”
Irla said she studied the historical images of the Ward Memorial Arch to work out the proportions and brick patterns. She projected its image onto corrugated plastic from Home Depot and drew the image onto the plastic. Then she cut every piece out and adhered it with hot glue.
When she got to the part where she could apply the Peeps, Irla said she worked on it section by section. She had a limited number of white Peeps so she said she had to be careful to distribute them evenly.
“I’m really proud of it,” Irla said. “I’m most proud of the size and how all the components came together. It took months of planning and I can’t wait to see it all set up.”
Oxx said working with Peeps is really challenging. Her entry “Girl with the Peep Earring” made her “understand what the artists are doing for us.”
“It’s hard and it’s expensive,” Oxx said. “They’re sticky, they get stuck on your scissors, the flavored ones have a gooey center and they don’t break evenly, but there’s something about Peeps. They bring smiles and they’re part of the nation’s pop culture. Everyone’s so excited when they bring in their stuff. There’s so much pride.”
Entries of all sizes continued to pour in last week. Toni and Rob Vargo and Toni’s mother Jean Ebeling, of Mechanicsville, delivered a “Wrapped in Peeps” quilt Friday. The trio is originally from Carroll County and came to the show for the first time last year.
“We were amazed that people took candies I usually eat and made artwork,” Toni Vargo said. “How we missed it for 10 years, I have no idea. We made a promise that we would make a quilt out of Peeps and we did it. We’re donating it to the Arts Center.”
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Oxx said PEEPshow winners will receive trophies made by Westminster artist Thomas Sterner. Those with the top five online votes will get a trophy, a gift certificate, and a swag bag. Those with the top 5 in-person votes will get the same. The best video will win a prize and the Grand Prize winner will be determined by the combined number of online and in-person votes.