2015 peeps diorama contest winner
Becky Heaton and Suzan Maher know what you’re thinking. Where are all the Peeps?
Look again. Cleverly concealed in the pair’s seemingly unpopulated landscape, featuring a rustic cabin and babbling brook, are 12 covert Peeps. (Okay, technically, there are 11. One bunny-shaped marshmallow was sliced in half, lengthwise, making for two pancake-flat Peeps.)
Painted and textured to look like wood, foliage, water, smoke and other natural materials, these bunnies play a game of hide-and-seek with the viewer, making for an intriguingly interactive — not to mention decidedly counterintuitive — tableau. The humor of a Peeps diorama, you see, traditionally derives from the fact that it’s full of, well, visible Peeps.
Constructed over three consecutive weekends, this year’s winning entry is Heaton and Maher’s fifth contest collaboration. A radical departure from their previous entries, which have included eye-catching riffs on Cirque du Soleil and the film “Gravity,” “Hidden Peeps” was inspired by a commercial for Lucky Charms cereal in which a man is camouflaged as a bookcase.
According to Maher, who describes herself as an inveterate crafter, most of the raw materials came from her vast stockpile of paints, clay, silk flowers and other art supplies (supplemented, of course, by twigs and pebbles from her front yard). The Peeps themselves were provided by Heaton, who maintains a year-round inventory of Peeps, both seasonal and standard varieties. “I’m known as the Peeps lady at work,” says the Department of Energy contractor.
Both Heaton and Maher love the “Wait ... what?” reaction that the piece has elicited from friends. They know that they’ll never be able to repeat this particular disappearing act, but that’s okay. They both say that there are plenty more Peeps — and ideas — where these came from.
About this year’s contest submissions
If I hear one more bad pun on the word “Peep,” I think I’ll scream.
Submissions in our ninth Peeps Diorama Contest included multiple riffs on such viral touchstones as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge — which, as more than one contestant noted, turned participants into “peepsicles” — and the Disneyland - fueled measles outbreak. (Note to Just Born, the company that makes Peeps, including ones shaped like ghosts and reindeer: You may want to reconsider those candy-cane flavored chicks, whose red speckles now evoke, for me at least, only hospital wards.)
The annual contest is a cultural bellwether, revealing what people are thinking about and reminding us of things we may have forgotten. Who knew, for instance, that 2015 is the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act? Yes, there’s a Peeps diorama for that. The Washington Post newsroom narrowed the field to these five finalists, then voted on a winner. The top prize is $200; other finalists receive $75.
More than anything, the contest is a reminder that wonky Washington is capable, at least once a year, of letting its freak flag fly. The rampant creativity (and yes, sweet silliness) manifested by the 419 entries restores my faith in humanity, in a perverse way.
Even if it means seeing Washington’s mayor referred to as “Muriel Peepser” and depicted as a mint-green bunny, I’m heartened by this thought: People can still have too much fun to be embarrassed by spending, in some cases, three weekends in a row hunched over a box of marshmallows with a roll of masking tape and a hot glue gun.
Enjoy the fruits of their delightfully ludicrous labor.
Can you locate all 12 “Hidden Peeps” in person? If you’re up to the challenge, visit the winner and other notable dioramas at National Harbor this month.
‘Peep City: The Sweetest Place on Earth!’
The Ocean City-themed diorama submitted by the husband-and-wife team of Michael and Lola Panco is a love letter to their home town. Made of foam board and flexible foam sheets sculpted into waves and other shapes, “Peep City” radiates out from a central boardwalk of wooden coffee stirrers. Along with a tiny Assateague Island horse, the candy-colored scene features a Peep version of “Boardwalk Elvis” (a.k.a. Norman Webb, a longtime resident known to regular vacationers for strolling the strand, singing Elvis songs into a kazoo).
Lola, a popular boardwalk portrait artist since arriving from Minsk, Belarus, in 2011, was the project’s lead designer. Born and raised in Ocean City, Michael was the idea man, feeding his wife tips on how to represent what he calls “the ideal vacation,” and chauffeuring her to the crafts store. (As a thank you, Lola slipped in a plug for Michael’s business, Ultra Solar and Wind Solutions, the logo for which can be glimpsed above a miniature Candy Kitchen.)
Unlike this year’s other finalists, all of whom have submitted dioramas before, the Pancos are first-time contestants. While Michael insists that his wife is the only artist in the family, he admits to something of a sweet tooth, if not for Peeps, then for salt water taffy. “I grew up eating that stuff,” he says.
By Michael O'Sullivan. Production by Veronica Toney and Emily Chow. Videos by Jonathan Elker and Randy Smith. Photos by Bill O'Leary and Scott Suchman for The Washington Post.