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Foodstuffs: 'Mount Suna-peep' And The World Of New Hampshire-Themed Peeps Dioramas

K Hardy via Flickr/CC -

There's a spring tradition that's been building over the last few years: Peeps diorama contests. Participants use those marshmallow birds and bunnies to put together all kinds of wacky and creative displays.

We have Peeps diorama builders in New Hampshire. The Library Arts Center in Newport is holding its 4th annual Peeps Diorama Contest. The Center's Fran Huot joined All Things Considered to talk about the many joys of Peeps.

I first heard about this tradition because of the Washington Post's annual Peeps competition. What made the Library Arts Center want to do a contest as well?

We started the contest back in the spring of 2012, after one of our members brought the idea to us after seeing a similar arts organization in another state host a contest the previous year.

We had seen the incredible contests hosted by the big urban newspapers such as the Washington Post and the Denver Post around the country. We were really intrigued with the idea and we wanted to bring it to our community on a smaller scale, with more of a community arts feel to it.

We were pleasantly surprised when we had about 100 entries in the first year, many from our immediate region but also quite a few from around the state. I remember one guy driving over an hour from Manchester to bring in his entry, so it really generated a lot of excitement.

And not just quantity, but quality - these can be really intricate.

Absolutely. You'd be amazed at what some people come up with - not only the creativity that comes from using puns on the word "Peep" but the intricate detail that goes into creating these dioramas. It's real incredible what a lot of people put into it.

Do you have favorite variations using the word "Peep" that have New Hampshire or Upper Valley themes to them?

One of our most creative entries was from a little girl in our first year. She did the Old Peep in the Mountain, like the Old Man [of] the Mountain. We've also seen several really creative entries from our immediate region right around the Sunapee area. We've had scenes of Mount Sunapee - Mount Suna-peep, they've called it - and skiers skiing down the mountain. 

And then several years ago, one of the major vessels on Lake Sunapee, the MV Kearsarge, sank several years ago. One of our patrons made a diorama centered on that as well - the sinking of the MV Peep-sarge, she called it. It was absolutely incredible - she had life jackets on the little bunnies, out on the plank. It was really neat.

How do you choose the winners and what do they receive?

We judge all the entries in several categories - we have a children's category, a family group category and an adult category. All of the entries are judged upon creative and original concepts, creative use and manipulation of the Peeps in the diorama and also artful design.

They receive really fun homemade Peeps trophies, which are really neat. They have actual Peeps on them and lots of adornment and jewels and feathers and all kinds of things. They're really highly coveted, which is great. We also have prizes that have been donated to us by the Peeps and Company corporation.

Once the judging is over, do people eat their Peeps? Preserve them for posterity? Or do they do what people on the internet do, which is to put them in the microwave to see what happens?

We see it all, we really do. A lot of people do end up eating parts of their dioramas, but usually by the time the Peeps are finishing being on display they're quite hard, so they're a little hard to eat sometimes. We see some people that have bonfires with their dioramas, we have some who put them in the microwave... there are also some people who are starting a little museum in their home of all their diorama entries from over the years.  

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