The Carroll County Arts Council celebrates the 12th year of the biggest event in Carroll County with almost double the number of over-sized sugary sculptures as last year.
Executive Director Judy Morley reported that the Arts Center received 40 large-scale sculptures — those that cannot easily fit in a space on a table — at this year’s PEEPshow. That’s about 15 more than last year.
The event opened Friday and runs through April 23. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, including Easter Sunday, and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
And the way the big works of art were transported into the Carroll Arts Center had to be nearly as creative as the method in which they were created.
A nearly human-sized “Cat in the Hat” made its way into the gallery by stretcher, gently, so as not to crush the soft confections that make up its outer layer.
Another creation, “The First Peep in Space,” is the show’s first national entry. Commissioned by International Delight to showcase their Peeps Coffee Creamer, the futuristic scene was shipped in from Minneapolis in a large wooden crate that had to be unpacked quickly because it wouldn’t fit through the gallery doors.
The perils of shipping damaged parts of the creation, but Zing + How Designs flew in days before the opening to make repairs.
Inside the galleries at the Arts Center, all of which are filled with Peeps art, the air smells faintly sweet from the vapors of the chicks and bunnies.
Morley said that after working with the confections so much, Arts Center volunteers can tell which of the special flavors — from watermelon to cotton candy — have been used to create a piece of art, even if the marshmallows are cut into pieces.
“Every year, you notice new themes,” she said. This year, more than one Rubik’s Cube found a spot in the entries, and several to inspiration from space exploration.
The PEEPshow is dubbed the largest event in Carroll County by the Carroll County Office of Tourism, drawing 25,000-27,000 visitors during the time it is open.
For context, that’s more than 7,000 more that the entire population of Westminster. And that’s all a boon to the Carroll County Arts Council, for whom the event is a fundraiser through the sale of refreshments, merchandise, voting chips and other items.
Admission to the show itself is free.
This year, businesses around the city painted their windows and decorated displays as part of an initiative called Come PEEP out Westminster, organized by the Westminster Downtown Partners.
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The city’s Wine Stroll and Restaurant Week will coincide with the PEEPShow’s opening weekend.
The Arts Council has five full-time and three part-time staff members who are joined by about 40 volunteers a day for the event, Morley said. During PEEPShow season, everyone pitches in many extra hours.
Morley has spent the last few weeks sharing her office with bags of plush Peeps, a rainbow of them overflowing off of every surface. They will be among the offerings of merchandise at the event for sale.
A newcomer to the Arts Center is the slush machine, which will be distributing yellow and blue slushes into souvenir cups inspired by the treats. Another offering is Peep-topped popcorn. Morley said the mixture of sweet marshmallow with salty movie-theater popcorn is a satisfying combo.
Inside the galleries, guests can vote for the Grand Prize Winner and Audience favorite among the art. Online voting is also available at www.CarrollCountyArtsCouncil.org.
Another yearly vote is one that has been debated passionately for years — fresh Peeps vs. stale.
Last year, the stale Peeps edged out the fresh ones for fan favorite, but Morley, a fresh Peeps fan, has hope that tide could turn this year.