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Sweet news for art lovers: PEEPshow returning to in-person format with move to TownMall of Westminster

TownMall of Westminster will seem a lot sweeter when one of Carroll County’s signature events, the PEEPshow, is held there for the first time, March 26 through April 5.

A novelty when it began in 2008, the PEEPshow grew to be the Carroll County Arts Council’s largest fundraiser, annually attracting 25,000 or so to the Carroll Arts Center to view and vote for works of arts created by using Peeps, a colorful marshmallow, usually chick-shaped candy. It traditionally has brought in some $100,000, said Judy Morley, executive director of the arts council.

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Last year, as the coronavirus pandemic raged, the PEEPshow was first postponed and then held virtually, attracting zero visitors to downtown Westminster and raising only about $13,000, Morley said.

This year, with COVID-19 still infecting hundreds of Carroll countians each week and the need for social distancing as great as ever, the PEEPshow will retain its online presence for those artists or spectators concerned about going out, but the in-person event will move from its relatively cramped Carroll Arts Center confines to the spacious site utilized for decades by Sears.

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The location in TownMall of Westminster formerly occupied by Sears will host the 2021 Carroll County Arts Council's PEEPshow from March 26 through April 5.
The location in TownMall of Westminster formerly occupied by Sears will host the 2021 Carroll County Arts Council's PEEPshow from March 26 through April 5. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

With the sugary exhibits staged in galleries and classrooms, the PEEPshow is usually held in about 2,500 square feet of space. This year, the plan is to spread everything out over 15,000 square feet to make it safer for everyone from a public health perspective.

“Definitely a lot larger footprint,” Morley said. “In this space we will have a lot easier time guiding everyone in one direction and they’ll be able to wait, if there is a line, indoors at the mall.”

Other safety measures will include face covering requirements, limited occupancy, sanitization of vote chips and hand sanitizer stations, according to an arts council news release.

And even more space is available, if needed, so the event will not be limited to the 150 or so entrants that space allows most years.

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Bernie Leidig of Bel Air and his wife Ginny, first time visitors to the PEEPshow, enjoy the selection of marshmallow art during the opening of the 12th annual PEEPshow at the Carroll Arts Center on Friday, April 12, 2019.
Bernie Leidig of Bel Air and his wife Ginny, first time visitors to the PEEPshow, enjoy the selection of marshmallow art during the opening of the 12th annual PEEPshow at the Carroll Arts Center on Friday, April 12, 2019. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)

This is not looked at as a permanent change. Morley termed the move “COVID-driven.” Of course, she is hoping the expanded space, the potentially larger number of entrants and the ready availability of parking spaces — which is sometimes an issue around the Carroll Arts Center — will mean a large turnout.

“TownMall came forward with a generous donation of space,” Morley said. “I”m not sure how people will feel about this, don’t know if people will come out.

“We’ll see how it goes. If it’s a smashing success ...”

For the 14th annual PEEPshow, the arts council will accept dioramas, sculpture, and mosaics as long as they include Peeps as the medium or subject matter. They will also accept entries utilizing photography, stop-action filmmaking, computer-generated art, drawings or paintings as long as they feature Peeps as the primary subject matter.

2020 PEEPshow Trophies
2020 PEEPshow Trophies

Five trophy and prize packages will be awarded to those receiving the most in-person votes, as well as five prize packages awarded to those earning the most online votes, according to the news release. The overall grand prize winner will be chosen based on the number of combined in-person and online votes received. Five Artistic Achievement awards will be chosen by the arts council staff and Sponsor’s Choice awards will be selected by PEEPshow’s sponsor organizations.

In last year’s virtual PEEPshow, more than 17,600 Peeps were used in the 86 entries. Last year’s fAudience Favorite was “Yellow Peepmarine” by Christian Twamley.

Yellow Peepmarine created by Christian Twamley, Sykesville, MD. 4776 Peeps used. 2020 PEEPshow the Prequel presented by Carroll County Arts Council.
Yellow Peepmarine created by Christian Twamley, Sykesville, MD. 4776 Peeps used. 2020 PEEPshow the Prequel presented by Carroll County Arts Council. (Courtesy Photo)

The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania company Just Born began making Peeps in 1953 and for decades has been the No. 1 non-chocolate Easter candy brand in the U.S., according to the release. Just Born is teaming up to help make the virtual part of the contest a national competition, Morley said.

Morley is cautiously optimistic that artists and those interested in viewing the confectionery works of art will turn out in large numbers after not having the opportunity last year.

“Every prediction I’ve made since COVID started has been wrong but my gut tells me people were very disappointed that we didn’t have it last year,” she said. “We’ve still got people saying, ‘We missed the PEEPshow so much, we’re so sad that it wasn’t in person.’ And the people on the board are so appreciative and excited about the ability to have an in-person show, safe, socially distanced.

“I think it’s going to be popular.”

Decorators must register for the live exhibit by March 1 and will be responsible for transporting their entry to the TownMall of Westminster. All live entries will also be featured in the virtual component. Any registrations received after March 1 will automatically default to the virtual exhibit only. Registration for the virtual exhibit will remain open until March 22. There is an entry fee of $10 and only one entry per person will be accepted. Registration is online only. Participants can find more information and register online at marshmallowPEEPshow.com. For more information, call 410-848-7272.

“Marilyn Peeproe” by Kelly Soverns finished first in online voting during the 2019 PEEPshow.
“Marilyn Peeproe” by Kelly Soverns finished first in online voting during the 2019 PEEPshow.

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