In 2007, a sweet (and quirky) idea turned into a Washington Post tradition.
Debra Leithauser was editor of The Post’s now-defunct Sunday Source section and had heard about newspapers asking readers to submit Peeps dioramas that placed decked-out Peeps marshmallow candies in creative scenes.
The idea was presented at the annual Society for Features Journalism conference that Leithauser attended and had been successful for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and a few smaller papers that had run similar contests. No one knows exactly who started the trend.
When Leithauser, now editor of The Post’s Weekend section, pitched the idea to her staff, they thought she was “crazy,” she remembered with a laugh. But she thought it would resonate with Post readers, particularly of the Sunday Source section, which sought to engage the 18-to-34 set.
It did. The contest was a hit, both in terms of page views and the number of entries, which well exceeded expectations. “D.C’s art community really took it seriously,” Leithauser added.
Style reporter Dan Zak was part of Leithauser’s Sunday Source team and helped coordinate the contest, from writing callouts to helping judge entries and interview finalists about their designs.
Even though this year’s contest is the sixth installment, Zak counts the first winning entry — a Marilyn Monroe-inspired diorama called “Peeps Are a Girl’s Best Friend” — as his favorite, noting that it was “huge and ornate and kind of breathtaking.”
The inspiration behind the creations is almost as captivating as the dioramas themselves — submissions range from clever riffs on pop culture (like Peeps Show IV’s winner, “Eep,” a Peeptastic parody of the Pixar flick “Up”) to re-staging of major events (like last year’s winner, "Chilean CoPeepapo Mine Rescue"). And let’s not discount some of the contest’s more delightfully sinister takes.
It’s part of what makes Peeps dioramas so fun, both to create and admire, Zak said. “Peeps are silly looking,” he said. When people put them in more serious settings, “that juxtaposition is really amusing. I think that’s why it works.”
Pssst. Feeling inspired? It’s the last weekend to enter the Peeps 2012 Contest. Enter here . Entries are due by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 27.