Visitors were lined up down the block as the PEEPSMOBILE and representatives from Just Born Quality Confections paid a visit to the Carroll County Arts Council's ninth annual PEEPshow in Westminster.
They may not have atomic batteries set to power or turbines ready for speed, but the PEEPSMOBILE likely turned as many heads on its journey from eastern Pennsylvania to Westminster as Batman and Robin's Batmobile did on their routine visits to Gotham City.
Monday, members of Just Born Inc., the makers of Peeps marshmallows and other treats, gathered in their PEEPSMOBILE to make the trip from their home in Bethlehem to the Carroll Arts Center to visit the center's annual PEEPshow and see what's been done to their sugary products.
Matthew Pye, Just Born vice president of trade relations and corporate affairs, has visited the PEEPshow three years in a row now, bringing with him the PEEPSMOBILE, a specially modified yellow Volkswagen Beetle complete with Peeps roofing on top. Pye, as well as other members of the Just Born team, got an up close look at the specialty sculptures and projects created by the Carroll community.
"Who would have thought you'd have so many people coming out for a little chick made of sugar?" Pye said. "It's one thing to do a diorama, but here, you have all of these different genres of art. People here in Carroll County have really done everything."
Upon arrival at the Arts Center, with a line stretching around the block of community members waiting to get in, the Just Born employees were greeted by a trio of young volunteers dressed in Peeps chick costumes holding cardboard signs advertising the event. Sandy Oxx, president of the Carroll County Arts Council, soon shepherded them inside for a personalized tour of the Peepsmania.
According to Pye, it's Oxx who first reached out to Just Born to let them know about the work with Peeps being done in Carroll County.
Several years ago, Pye said, Oxx came to Bethlehem for the annual PEEPSFEST New Year's celebration. While there, she met with Pye and told him of the sculptures and creations going on at the Carroll Arts Center. He promised to come visit at the next show, and has returned every year since.
In the past, the company has taken in some of the more spectacular Peeps creations from the life-sized Big Bird made in 2013 to last year's Left Shark replica, for display at their central headquarters.
Mark Blacksten, who helped his daughter Sydney create the Left Shark, ran into the Just Born posse as they made their way through the upstairs exhibits. He asked how well the sculpture was holding up, and inquired about the true flavors of the Mystery Peeps used to create the shark's underbelly.
As they saw each of the exhibits, they pointed out their favorites, met with PEEPshow employees — including Tabetha White in homemade Peeps stockings and skirt — and marveled at the displayed craftsmanship. This year, the company plans to adopt the upstairs Snoopy and "Kung Fu Panda" pieces as well as the elaborate 7-foot-tall rendition of the Muppets' Swedish Chef.
As they toured, they did have choice critiques for a few of the entries, mainly for using non-Just Born brands of jelly beans and other treats. Christina Check, assistant brand manager for Peeps Easter, pointed out that the jelly beans used in creating a school bus were too large and lacked the distinct flat side of Just Born beans.
Outside, the group gathered for photos in front of the activity. Pye said it's an honor to visit what he considers the premiere PEEPshow in the country. According to the Pye, one third of all Peeps sold are used for artistic purposes rather than eaten.
"What's been done here is truly something special," Pye said. "People have raised money for a great nonprofit while showing off their Peep-sonalities."