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‘The community loved it’: In-person PEEPshow attracts thousands, raises $85K for Carroll County Arts Council

Elvis has left the building — taking thousands of votes and the grand prize with him.

The Carroll County Arts Council’s 14th annual PEEPshow wrapped up Monday after an 11-day run at TownMall of Westminster. And while the art exhibit “Elvis Peepsley is in the Building,” by Kelly Soverns, earned the most votes and took home the top prize, Arts Council Executive Director Judy Morley felt like her organization was the big winner.

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“People really supported the event and we’re very pleased,” she said. “I would definitely call it a success. The community loved it and thanked us for having it again.”

What has grown into one of the most heavily attended events held in Carroll County each year — in which people turn out to view and vote for works of art created by using Peeps, a colorful marshmallow, usually chick-shaped candy — was canceled except for virtual viewing last year. Interest was low and what is normally the arts council’s biggest fundraiser, often bringing in $90-100 thousand, netted just $13,000.

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Determined to bring back the in-person aspect of the event, PEEPshow was moved from the Carroll Arts Center to TownMall this year, to allow social distancing, and the crowds returned.

Morley said that while they don’t have an exact attendance figure yet, many thousands turned out and that the line to get in stretched from the interior entrance to what used to be Sears all the way through the center court and past the mall offices. It sometimes meant a wait time of more than an hour for the Peeps art enthusiasts.

“It wasn’t because of limiting capacity, it was just because that many people wanted to get in, buy vote chips and walk through,” she said.

Wait times are nothing new for PEEPshow. But, one nice part about having it at TownMall, Morley said, was that people were waiting inside the warm mall, looking at the shops, perhaps having a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s, rather than waiting in a line down Main Street, outside the arts center. She said Friday, April 2 was the highest attended day. The temperature was in the 30s, with high winds, for most of that day.

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Morley said, preliminarily, the event raised more than $85,000 for the arts council despite not selling concessions (such as “Peepcorn”) this year.

So, will PEEPshow be back in TownMall next year or will it return to the arts center?

“We’re having that discussion right now,” Morley said. “From a logistical, event-planning perspective, off-site was incredibly difficult. It complicated things by orders of magnitude. ... [But] from the customer experience perspective, everybody loved it here.”

Morley estimated that for every one visitor who expressed hope that PEEPshow would return to the Carroll Arts Center next year, three said they would prefer for it to stay in TownMall.

PEEPshow attracted 109 in-person entries and 134 total entries (counting online only) ranging from sculptures and mosaics to dioramas and films — using more than 23,000 Peeps. That was up from about 85 last year, though down from more than 150 two years ago.

Jeff Smith of Westminster takes a picture of PEEP-ola Jukebox by The Meyers Family (Jen, Justin, Connor, and Jacob). Peep-ola earned the second-most votes in the 14th annual PEEPshow, which was presented by The Carroll County Arts Council and ran from March 26 through April 5, 2021 at TownMall of Westminster.
Jeff Smith of Westminster takes a picture of PEEP-ola Jukebox by The Meyers Family (Jen, Justin, Connor, and Jacob). Peep-ola earned the second-most votes in the 14th annual PEEPshow, which was presented by The Carroll County Arts Council and ran from March 26 through April 5, 2021 at TownMall of Westminster. (Jeffrey F. Bill)

Morley said she was astounded by the quality of some of the entries. And by the number of visitors who told her how glad they were to be able to come out and see the marshmallow exhibits again.

“It was overwhelming to hear how many people missed it last year and what a tradition it is,” Morley said.

Winning entries

In-person votes:

1. “Elvis Peepsley is in the Building,” by Kelly Soverns, 5,170 votes

2. “Peep-ola Jukebox” by The Myers Family (Jen, Justin, Connor and Jacob), 4,762 votes

3. “PeePachu,” by Karen Hillman, 2,773 votes

4. Peepwood Derby,” by Cub Scout Pack 417, 2,734 votes

5. “So Glad to PEEP You Again” by Joe Hamilton, 2,258 votes

Online votes:

1. “Elvis Peepsley is in the Building,” by Kelly Soverns, 1,826 votes

2. “The Flying Feet Running Program,” by Jayde Kelly, Jayde Elliott and Sara Elliott, 1,467 votes

3. “Peeps Around the World,” by KT World Communications (Katie Conover Marinello), 559 votes

4. “Humpty Peep” by Vanessa Leuthold, 546 votes

5. “Nurse of the PEEPle” by Karen Talbot, Stephanie Livesay, Charlotte, and Savannah Livesay, 514 votes

Grand prize:

“Elvis Peepsley is in the Building” by Kelly Soverns (6,996 total votes)

Sponsors’ choice awards:

Carroll County Maryland Office of Tourism: “Emily Kate PEEP cake” by Emily, Jameson, and Connor Utz

Quantum Internet and Telephone: “The Peeples Wagon” by Nancy Schoenfeld

Ben Rogers of Edward Jones Investments: “Soccer Foosball Peeps” by Ben Miller & Blake Michael

TownMall of Westminster: “So Glad to PEEP You Again” by Joseph Hamilton

Artistic excellence awards:

“Fun House Mirror” by The Duncan Family

“The Claw” by Brice R. & Ella W.

“PEEPshire Cat” by Lara King

“Straw, Sticks, Bricks and Chicks” by Kristen Christy

“Famous PEEPs of History” by John Fique Illustrator

All the winners received a goodie bag with Peeps & Company merchandise and gift certificates and free registration for next year’s PEEPshow! The In-Person Audience Favorite winners also received a souvenir trophy handcrafted by artist Thomas Sterner. The grand prize winner received a sterling silver Peep keychain and a special VIPeeps visit to Just Born, the maker of PEEPS® in Bethlehem, PA.

For more information and photos of some of the entries, go to www.CarrollCountyArtsCouncil.org.

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