Peeps Show V: The contest returns!

Feb 28, 2011

Can you smell the sugar in the air? It's time for the fifth-annual Peeps Diorama Contest!

Since 2007, we've combed through thousands of sweet, sticky entries in search of the true masters of the marshmallow medium. To enter, create a diorama of a famous event, scene or pop-culture reference using Peeps as your characters. Check out the official instructions, and browse last year's finalists for inspiration.

The rules say to use a shoebox or something of similar size when creating a diorama, but from pictures of winners past, the entries look much larger than a shoebox. Are the pictures deceptive or is the shoebox guideline flexible?

Sorry, we're having some technical difficulties but hopefully back on track now! Generally, dioramas should be no smaller than a shoebox and not so large that one person can't transport it easily. Some people like the constraints of a shoebox; others don't. Either one can win.

While there is always debate about any subjectively judged contest, my friends and I have noticed that all of the past winners seem to be very high brow, artsy, or (I hate to do it) as Palin would say, reflective of the media elite. In general, we get a way bigger kick out of some of the pop culture references, one of my all time favorites being the Price is Right homage. So tell us the truth, do the snarky even stand a chance to win the title?

I respectfully disagree -- Up isn't necessarily high brow or elitist, nor is Good Night Moon or the Korean War Memorial. And what about Octo-peep, one of last year's finalists? Can't get more pop-culture than that. Of course, the more artfully portrayed the better, but we're big pop culture junkies here -- snark is great, so long as it's creative and artistic.

Has the Post considered a children's category? I have two boys, 11 and 9, who are just dying to enter and have already purchased their Peeps (we didn't know there was a minimum age requirement). There is no way they are going to be able to compete at the adult level, but a children's category could be a hoot.

We have considered it -- the difficulty (from what I understand, and keep in mind I'm not on the Post's legal team) lies in awarding a prize to someone under the age of 13. But stay tuned on this front -- there could always be a Best in Show category for the little ones.

Why does The Washington Post not disclose the participation of of Peeps' manufacturer, Just Born, in the spsonsorship of the contest? The contest is in actuality advertising.

I'm not entirely sure I understand your question -- we actually started this contest five years ago without any input from Just Born, the company that makes Peeps, because we thought it would be something fun for readers. To this day, the Peeps company provides prizes to the winners, but that's the extent of any sort of "sponsorship."

While I understand that I have to include my name with my entry, can I request to have it listed as Anonymous if I am a finalist?

We print reported stories on the winner and four finalists, including names and ages, and they walk us through the creative process behind their dioramas, so I'm not sure true anonymity is possible.

PS Are you Banksy?


Will people be able to see the winning entries at Artomatic?

No plans for Peeps at Artomatic this year, but that could change ... stay tuned.

Hi, my kids and I love the peeps! We may try to enter this year. I am wondering if you have suggestions to share on products that work well in the peep diorama. Specifically is there one glue that is better than others for the peeps? Is a spray shellac necessary? Is one better than the other? Any disasters using any products that made the peep dye run? Thank you for your answers!

Chatters, any suggestions? Spray shellac seems pretty popular, along with Sculpey ...

Hey!! How come the finalists have to be from the area?? Very disappointing, guys!!

Finalists have to be from this area because we have to photograph the winning dioramas in person ... that's the way the cookie has crumbled from the being. But anyone from outside DC/MD/VA can still be featured as a semifinalist in the photo gallery ...

The past few years, the top awards always seem to go to individuals with experience in art/graphic arts/art design, etc. Have you ever considered a category for non-professionals? SHammond - Crofton

We've gotten this question a few times, but it comes down  to splitting hairs -- is someone a professional who has a boring day job but is a painter/sculptor by night? Or do they have to be a full-time artist to be considered "professional"? See what I mean? It gets a bit tricky when you try to put limitations on it, so we don't take someone's profession into account when we're judging. It's purely aesthetics + message + level of fun/humor/interest.

So looking forward to this year's contest! It will be my first time creating an entry. Are there any rookie mistakes I should avoid?

We definitely get the following topics/themes by the boatload, and they've never won: "Sgt Peepers," "Give Peeps a Chance" and "We the Peeple." After judging the contest for five years running, we've seen them literally a million times. Generally things that are more offbeat and outside-the-box hold up better in the competition.

Holly, I must admit that my former roommate and I completed our third entry this weekend. She has moved out of the area but I couldn't do this on my own, so she spent part of her grad school spring break cutting up stuff in my dining room. We think this is our best one yet. Hint: It lights up. Can't wait to see everyone's entries! Lisatella

Yay! It's the enthusiasm of people like you that makes this contest fun year after year ... thanks!

I have a couple of ideas, but haven't begun construction yet. Releastically, is it too late? Do you think most contestants have been at this for weeks? Thanks.

It's definitely not too late -- the contest was only published in the Magazine yesterday. But you'd better get crackin' soon ...

Your official instructions indicate that the contest is open to anyone in the US, but the five finalists must be residents of DC, MD or VA. Is there any thought to changing that? I live in PA and would love to make a submission. I'm sure that there will be lots of finalist worthy submissions from outside the DC metro region. Thanks!

It's a tough break, I know, but like I mentioned earlier, the finalists have to be from the DC metro area because we have to see them in person and have them photographed professionally. If you're outside the area, you can absolutely submit a diorama and be included as a semifinalist -- which means you'll be included in the online gallery and possibly be featured in the Magazine.

A couple years ago, my husband (then boyfriend) and I submitted a diaorama entitled "Peep in a Box", a play on the popular and hilarious Justin Timberlake skit. I was surprised that we didn't even get an honorable mention! Was the topic just too racy for an Easter-themed contest?

Oh, I remember Peep in a Box! We all got a big laugh out of it, but it just didn't make the final cut. Family newspaper, and all ...

Love the Peeps and have always wanted to enter, but never have because the winner every year seems to be a team of architects or art professionals. I know the point isn't *winning,* but it's kept me on the sidelines so far.

We've definitely had winners that weren't architects or artists -- we've had master gardeners, homemakers and researchers as finalists in the past two years' contests. If you want to make a diorama and feel inspired, why not? Don't hold back just because of the competition.

How important is exactly scaling the rest of the diorama to Peep size?

Scale is important, because we're looking for something that's aesthetically pleasing -- going to the trouble of creating a Peep-size world goes a long way.

But last year's winner was designed by a team that included a guy who professionally works in 3-D modeling...come on, admit it, this is a fun contest and I love it ever year, but "regular" people can't win.

"Regular" people who employ some sort of crafty/artsy/creative skill can absolutely win -- again, check out the master gardener who did the Chinatown diorama and the homemaker who did the Octo-Peep diorama in 2009. Obviously, some artistic talent goes  a long way -- you can't just throw some Peeps in a box and expect to win. It's a competition, so we're going to choose the dioramas that look best -- if yours is best and you're a "regular" person, you'll win.

I just ordered materials so I can start building this weekend.

Hooray! Got any good ideas yet?

Hot glue is where it's at. Also: Mod Podge.

For the chatters looking for tips!

What is the due date?

Entries are due Monday, March 14 before midnight.

Is this to keep them in position or to keep the sugar from falling off, or just to impart a shiny finish?

Anyone have an expert answer? My guess: A little bit of both.

How does one best mask the white marshmallow that shows through when you pull the Peeps apart from each other out of the box? Mix paint to match?

I've seen people use paint, but I've also seen them dye sugar with food coloring and affix it to the white spots.

If I construct one of the characters from peeps, but it no longer resembles a peep, is that within the contest guidelines, and is it a good or bad thing?

As long as you're using Peeps, you should be fine. If you get to the point where you're melting down Peeps to create completely different figures (like a mad sculptor) and the entire diorama is devoid of anything Peep-ish, you should probably reconsider your methods.

... is it more important to have every item in the diorama as "polished" as possible, even if it means leaving details out, or does it need both?

A diorama that looks finished, in my opinion, is better than one that has tons of detail but looks a little haphazard or shoddy. After all, it has to photograph well and look good in print and online ... so think more big picture than little picture, I'd say.

How important is the written description that accompanies the entry, and what essential elements (other than contact info) should I put in there? I'm curious whether a good "story" helps the entry stand out from other similarly executed entries.

A good story certainly helps, but it can be just a few sentences -- we shouldn't need several paragraphs to figure out what your diorama is trying to convey. It should speak for itself, for the most part.

Do people generally air dry the Peeps to make them easier to work with? Or is there some other technique? Mine were a gooey mess last year, but we still had fun. Can't wait to see the creativity from this year's entries. Thanks!

Another chatter with questions for the crafty ... any ideas?

How do you go about choosing the winners? The creativity is always great in the ones that you show us. I was underwhelmed by last year's winner because it wasn't really about the Peeps at was just a diarama (no matter how well done) that had a couple of Peeps thrown in to meet the criteria of the contest. Shouldn't the creative use of Peeps be more important?

Thanks for weighing in! We choose five finalists based on originality of concept, skill in execution, level of humor, thematic elements and other aspects such as use of puns, wit, satire, snark, fun, pop culture nods. We open the voting to the newsroom, and the winner from the five is chosen by popular vote. We're thrilled to see what this year's contest brings!

I'm using a box I bought last year. Plan ahead, everyone!


It's definitely helpful to leave the Peeps out for a few hours, especially if you're affixing them to anything (the box, props, etc.) -Lisatella

Thanks to everyone who weighed in during today's Peeps Show chat -- looking forward to seeing what you create in the next two weeks. Best of luck!

In This Chat
Holly Thomas
Holly E. Thomas, a staff writer for The Washington Post Magazine, is an expert in all things Peeps.
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