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Our View: Resuming in-person events such as the PEEPshow a step forward | COMMENTARY

As our region approaches one year into the coronavirus pandemic, there are certain steps, milestones, if you will, that help give everyone a sense that a return to the way things used to be is, while not imminent, at least in progress. Getting students back into school and allowing businesses like bars and restaurant to return to normal hours are among those steps.

And maybe, just maybe, so is giving people the opportunity to take a peep at a dragon or a submarine or Mr. Potato Head or Baby Yoda crafted out of multi-colored marshmallow candies, each likely in the shape of a chick or a a bunny, well known, particularly around Easter, as Peeps.

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Yes, the concept of normalcy absolutely means the resumption of events that are a big part of each community’s traditions. How many such events we’ve missed out on over the past year, from fire company carnivals to parades down Main Streets to galas to festivals celebrating a season or an adult beverage. A large portion of the events that Carroll countians look forward to are fundraisers for businesses or nonprofits or municipalities that count on the revenue to help fund important work. If not canceled, many of these fundraisers have been “reimagined” and moved to the virtual realm over the past 11 months, with varying degrees of success. But even when the online version works, it’s still not the same.

That’s why we were heartened by the announcement last week that the 14th annual PEEPshow, the Carroll County Arts Council’s biggest fundraiser, will be held in person this year after first being postponed and then being contested online-only last year. There was ample motivation to do so. Judy Morley, the arts council’s executive director, told us the event typically raises $100,000 or so but that number dipped to around $13,000 last year.

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It won’t be exactly the same because a change of venue is involved. Instead of being held as usual at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster, the PEEPshow will take place March 26 through April 5 at TownMall of Westminster in the space formerly occupied for many years by Sears. So instead of being held in about 2,500 square feet of space, the works are art can be spread out over some 15,000 square feet to better allow social distancing and a one-way flow for visitors as they are walking around and voting for their favorite works of art. Other potential benefits of the move include more parking and the ability to wait in line, if needed, inside the mall rather than outside on the sidewalk lining Main Street. There will also continue to be an online version of the event.

Morley concedes she has no idea how the PEEPshow will be received this year, whether fans will accept the new location and whether people will be willing to venture out into a crowd, albeit in masks and spaced out.

“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.’ .... I think it’s going to be popular.”

Maybe it won’t approach the 25,000 or so visitors who typically attend the PEEPshow. Maybe it will exceed expectations. Either way, we’re glad the arts council and TownMall got creative and found a way to hold it in person this year and we hope other traditional events will be able to follow suit.

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