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updated: 4/30/2011 10:35 AM

Annual Peeps diorama contest brings out creativity

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  • A card game is featured in a Peeps diorama created by Holmstad residents in Batavia.

      A card game is featured in a Peeps diorama created by Holmstad residents in Batavia.
    Courtesy Sammi King

  • This Peeps diorama is based on the craft room at the Holmstad.

      This Peeps diorama is based on the craft room at the Holmstad.
    Courtesy Sammi King

 
 

You have to feel for the little critters. Some people hate them, but others adore them. Little kids beg for them. Mothers dutifully ration them.

They are Peeps, the most misunderstood candy in the world.

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When my younger son was 3, he chose to hoard the sugary candy, hiding them from me in unusual places. I found one perfectly formed little chickadee nesting in the top drawer of a bedside table, three months after the Easter holiday. Unlike the driftwood that changes shape by the power of the sea, this tiny specimen was perfectly formed, unharmed by the dust that enveloped it.

My son wasn't the only kid in America who loved Peeps. Today they are available year round with 1.2 billion produced annually. They come in a variety of shapes and colors for all the major holidays. Peeps have led to a phenomena that includes merchandising of everything from T-shirts to salt and pepper shakers in fine china, with more than 800 related products available for sale.

So, what is all of that marshmallowy goodness doing to our health and well being. Aside from the calorie count, the little bunnies and birdies are sparking our creativity and making us smile. Peeps are turning up in craft projects and legitimate artwork and, yes, Peeps can be found living inside shoe boxes or the ever-popular diorama, known as the Peeps Show.

I first noticed them at the Holmstad last year. In a contest that only brings the winner bragging rights, Peeps made it to church, The "Peeples Church" to be exact.

"We had so much fun putting it together," said Shirley Adair. "And many of the people here enjoyed it."

Adair worked with Jan and Rueben Helander to produce the church setting with beautiful stained glass windows.

"Rueben is our propman," said Jan. "He helps us with some of the extra things we need."

Rueben Helander has always been a craftsman and a woodworker. He has also been a big supporter of his wife's hobby of creating miniature displays.

"I used to create quite a few shadow boxes and small craft projects," she added.

Perhaps Rueben Helander's title should be construction manager since he puts up the wallpaper and lays the flooring. Or maybe master carpenter would be appropriate since he also builds the furniture and shelving.

"I'm happy to be the 'propman'" he said, with sincere humility. "And I do like Peeps, maybe one or two at Easter."

In an effort to get the Peeps dioramas off the ground this year, Holmstad craft director Amy Haywood created a diorama, "Peeps playing cards," in the style of the painting, "A Friend In Need" by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge from the popular "Dogs Playing Poker" series that was created as an advertising campaign in the 1920s. A tiny print of the painting hangs on the wall of the diorama.

To honor Haywood's craft area, the reigning champion team chose to duplicate the craft room with the Peeps working on various craft projects. There are Peeps working with sewing machines, Peeps creating a quilt, Peeps painting. All the peeps are wearing glasses.

"Look around," said Jan Helander. "You don't see too many people here without glasses."

It seems like Jan Helander is the creative director of the team but she was quick to give credit to her teammates, highlighting some of the things that Shirley Adair did for the effort.

"I made a queen-size quilt once and it wasn't as difficult as making this small one," Adair said.

The team also realized that the competition is strong this year and pointed out the strengths of their competitors. Win or lose, the champions plan to return next year.

"I already have an idea for next year," said Jan Helander, with a smile that would melt a Peeps' marshmallow heart.

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