The Peeps Not Taken

Several weeks ago, the Washington Post announced its first-ever Peeps Diorama contest. This announcement came out just as I was heading into three weeks of unemployment between shows, and I thought, “What better way to keep myself occupied than to play with Peeps?” I read the contest rules throughly and gave my diorama concept a few days of careful consideration before deciding on a Peep version of Emmanuel Leutze’s famous painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware. I thought it would be amusing and original.

I bought three boxes of different-colored Peeps (sticking with the classic “chick” design and disdaining the johnny-come-lately rabbit version). I made several trips to the craft store to buy supplies, with the promise that I would spend no more than $25 on the whole project. Finally, I started to work. Before beginning, I ate a ceremonial Peep and immediately remembered why I don’t eat Peeps – it was so sweet it made my teeth ache.

First, I looked through my boxes of Peeps and decided which one had the right expression to play the part of George Washington – I needed a Peep that looked both noble and a little anxious. I put that Peep aside and concentrated on covering my shoe-box with parchment paper. Then I roughed out my boat design, glued it together and put it aside to dry (I discovered later that stapling the boat was more efficient).

Starting at the front of the boat, I studied the individual poses and costumes, and then began to costume my Peeps. I discovered that working with fresh Peeps is a bad idea; they’re much less sticky when they’ve gotten a bit stale. I built little hats and coats and scarves out of felt and scraps of fabric and glued them onto the Peeps. I made coonskin caps out of coils of brown pipecleaner. I painted wooden kebab skewers to represent the oars and poles. I labored over the George Peep, giving him a neat little wig of light gray chenille, with a little ponytail at the back tied off with a tiny snippet of black thread. I found a cocktail sword and wrapped its hilt in gold thread. I painted an American flag, glued it into the proper folds, and topped the flagpole with a teeny tassel of more gold thread. I used chunks of clear sea glass for the ice in the river and blue cellophane strips for the water. I painted some polyester fiberfill to represent the foggy sky. And for a finishing touch, I glued a small rhinestone into the sky to stand in for the morning star. Here’s the finished product:

I was so proud of my Peeps. I named my diorama “Peepington Crossing the Delaware,” took some photos of it and emailed the photos to the Post. I got a friendly note back telling me that my submission had been received and that they’d be making a decision shortly after March 18th.

March 18th came and went. I put the Peep diorama on display in the living room, examining it every few days to make certain it wasn’t rotting or molding or invaded by ants. The week went by and I heard nothing. Today I emailed the Post and asked if a decision had been made. I received a prompt reply that went thusly:

Yours did not place. We picked our 22 semifinalists and five finalists last week, and we picked our winner yesterday. I would’ve gotten back to you personally, but we got almost 400 submissions — it was more than we could process. But thanks much for participating and for your hard work! Given the response we got, we’re surely going to do this next year.

Four hundred submissions – wow and good lord.

I’d worked hard on my diorama. I had hoped it would at least make the semifinals, but such is life. Probably some classroom full of second graders labored together on a brilliant design and will take home the top prize when the winners are announced on April 8th. With a twinge of regret I threw George and his kindred into the trash. All that work for nothing. However, I already have an idea for another diorama, one that’s simpler and won’t require so much time to execute (so I won’t have to be unemployed to participate).

Just wait until next year.


  1. Editaur

    I think your peeporama is beautiful. I’m very proud, even if the Post doesn’t appreciate it.The finalists and winners had better be doozies.

  2. Tony Westbrook

    Well you WIN in my book! That is amazing! You are creative AND talented! All the more reason to bestow upon you the PEEPSles Choice Award for Most Orignal and Distinctive Use of Cavity Causing Candy! 4 out of 5 Dentists agree, PEEPS should be SEEN and not EATEN!!!Kudos Mrs. M!!!

  3. Anthony

    400….wow, that’s a whole lot of peeps that are no longer sitting on shelves tempting little children.I thought your peeporama (to quote another poster) was lovely, and so appropriate for DC. I can’t wait to see what the winning one was…the Million Peep March?

  4. Andy B.

    Donna,That is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. You clearly should not be allowed to have free time.I laughed because my Dad, who spent his whole life in the candy business, worked briefly for the company that makes Peeps, Frankford Candy in Philadelphia.For a long time, they were a running in joke among my family and friends.Given that Washington’s Crossing is kind of a Phildelphia theme, you might want to send your design to the Frankford people.Best,Andy

  5. Joan L.

    Andy’s post has cracked me up. So, essentially, one of his Peeps, his Pop, worked for the Peeps who make Peeps.Nick has a t-shirt with a gangster Peep on it that says, “Where My Peeps At.” I think you need one of those, Donna.

  6. Anonymous

    Hey, we appreciate Donna’s diorama. There’s always next year. Check out this Sunday to see all the semifinalists (and you’ll see that some people are *crazy*). But pick up a hard copy of the paper too (our spread on the five finalists will be pretty). — the Sunday Source staff at the Post

  7. Anonymous

    Hey! Me, my Mom, my sister and her boyfriend join you in the “Peeps Not Taken” club. We worked hard and were disappointed ours weren’t picked either. We’ve got to ramp it next year I guess! Peepington was a great idea though.

  8. K

    Speaking of badly needed LOL, thank you for THIS timeless sentence, Donna — “a Peep that looked both noble and a little anxious.” I’ll never forget your Audrey II eggs given to Little Shop puppeteers, or the one-ripe/one-peel banana earrings you made yourself long ago. Too many talents? Discuss.Looking forward to catching Musical of Musicals, KR

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