One of the reasons we love our colleagues at TwinCities.com (in addition to their obsession with county fair food) is their yearly Peeps diorama contest. We’re importing their Midwest humor to share with our Bay Area readers.
You might think that tiny marshmallow bunnies are always cute.
You would be wrong.
The Pioneer Press Peeps Diorama Contest entries show a growing number of serious themes — ranging from political commentary to tributes to the dead to commemorations of historic events.
Could it be that Peeps, in the contest’s 14th year, are evolving into a legitimate artistic medium?
This year there were plenty of frivolous pop-culture entries depicting movies, TV shows and books. But the entries included 11 related to various political marches and four honoring deceased hometown hero Prince.
Six were apparently pro-Trump, or at least respectful. Two were opposed. One showed the spirits of dead people ascending into heaven, and another depicted the Dakota pipeline protest.
Jill Schaefer of Minnetonka was not joking when she used Peeps to memorialize the 90,000-person women’s march in St. Paul on Jan. 21.
“It was super-moving to me — so many people coming out and speaking their mind,” said Schaefer. “I am commemorating an important event in history. It was so impressive.”
As another sign of an evolving art form, Peeps artists have begun to debate about their craft. Some say it’s best to let the Peeps grow stale and hard, others say fresh Peeps are the best for use in art.
“Peeps are very sticky to work with. But they tend to get wrinkled when they are stale,” said Rod Bland of St. Paul, who received honorable mention with a DNA-themed diorama.
As an artist, he’s searching for the perfectly aged Peep. “There is a sweet-spot in there somewhere,” he said.
First place: “Moby Peeps” by Katie Ramsayer of Washington, D.C.
“Moby Peep,” by Katie Ramsayer of Washington, D.C.
In this marshmallow masterpiece, Moby bursts through the waves in his mini-marshmallow glory, lanced with toothpicks hand-dyed in walnut stain.
Captain Ahab, one leg replaced by a peg leg, commands the pursuit boat, as Queequeg and other crew members cower in fear.
At least, it’s probably fear. Bunnies aren’t good at revealing their emotions.
Starbuck, one of the characters in the book, has a barista apron from the coffee-chain Starbucks. Chick-shaped Peeps hover overhead, carrying a banner like a couple of angels from heaven.
Ramsayer’s attention to detail is impeccable: A ship in the background is 2 inches long, with a single Peep-speck as a captain, and a figurehead the size of a rice-grain.
“We definitely wanted to stay away from politics,” said Helen Fields, a friend of Ramsayer’s who helped with the project. “But I do have a whale obsession.”
Second place: “Beauty and the Peep” by Sarah Lillie of Minneapolis.
“Beauty and the Peep,” by Sarah Lillie of St. Paul
The passion, the fright, the gender commentary of the movie “Beauty and the Beast” was rendered — albeit a bit silly — by the second-place winner.
The diorama was the product of Lillie and her arts-and-crafts group called Ladies Creating Stuff.
“We thought of the women’s march and of Prince, and then thought that everyone else would be doing that,” said Lillie.
The diorama uses Chiclets — dozens of them, lined up along shelves, hand-painted to resemble books. Detail is everything in this entry, right down to the pipe-cleaner candelabra. The “beast” is crowned with a golden mane of doll’s hair.
Third place: “Peeple Rain” by Jim Tarara and family of Woodbury
“Peeple Rain,” by Jim Tarara of Woodbury
Although not the only Prince-themed diorama, this entry’s craftsmanship pushed it to the top. And the fact that the title is the best Peeps pun of 2017.
Tarara — with wife Paige and children Alison, 21, Meagan, 19, and Mike, 14 — worked tirelessly on this depiction of the Purple One at First Avenue in Minneapolis.
They even took a field trip to the club, to be sure the stage and floor plan were accurately portrayed. They checked out the white stars on the walls with names of visiting bands — and made tiny stars by hand for their diorama.
Tarara found guitars online and even a Peep-sized Coca-Cola bottle, so one of the fans in the diorama wouldn’t be thirsty.
His children, said Tarara, did most of the work. “I am an engineer by trade, which goes against being craftsy,” he said. “But my kids are very craftsy.”
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- “Peeps March,” Jill Schaefer of Minnetonka. The diorama shows the January women’s march in St. Paul. The Peeps are different colors, depicting different races, said Schaefer. Many have pink hats and signs, and one has teeny wire-rimmed glasses. The “trees” are twigs from her back yard. Schaefer was a first-place winner last year, with her work honoring the pop star David Bowie.
- “Peeps DNA,” Rod Bland of St. Paul. This was easily the craziest entry. It’s a double-helix of DNA in which the Peeps have — for some reason — replaced the protein molecules. “It made sense to me,” said Bland, a professional photographer. “I realized that nature has some beautiful forms and decided, ‘Let’s just go with DNA.’ “
- “For Peep’s Sake,” Brian Schomburg of Cottage Grove. An elaborate homage to those who died in 2016, their Peep-ly spirits climbing through clouds to get to heaven.
- The People’s Choice Award: The top online vote-getters were the “Bowling Green Massacre” diorama by Julianne Markow of San Diego, with a little help from husband Gregory, and “Peeps, Love & Harmony,” showing a peaceful political rally, by Diane Vasquez of South St. Paul.
In the video category, “2017: A Peep Odyssey” was easily the best.
Winner Michael Quinn crafted a parody of “2001: A Space Odyssey” right down to the asteroids that look suspiciously like chocolate eggs. Human history begins with cave-Peeps discovering tools, and later fly in spacecraft.
Second place went to Ben Stemen of Gahanna, Ohio, the creator of “Peepnado,” a confectionary parody of the “Sharknado” movies, in which storms scoop up sharks and toss them into cities.
Third place was “Peep Rave with DJ Tooth Decay,” a V.I.Peeps dance party by Zac Beauclaire of Hugo and Sophie Beyer of White Bear Lake.