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Friday, April 18, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Peep show: Who knew what you could do with this marshmallow confection?

Seattle Times staff reporter

Consider the humble Peep, a mere one-third ounce of some of your favorite foods: sugar, gelatin, potassium sorbate, carnauba wax.

Born in 1953, when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and "From Here to Eternity" was earning eight Oscars, the 32-calorie confection, made by Just Born Inc. of Bethlehem, Penn., is now cranked out at the rate of 1.2 billion a year. That's a boost of nearly 137,000 an hour to the worldwide Peep-ulation.

Although it is most commonly sighted as a chick or a bunny, a Peep can be transformed by an active imagination into almost anything — an angel, a bagpipe player, a voyeur, a dinosaur's eyeball or a lock of golden hair. And those are just from the top five entries Seattle Times readers sent in response to Northwest Life's invitation.

Peeps photo gallery


Browse our Peeps gallery to see the winners and some of our favorite entries.
Among the other 140-plus entries were ones that converted Peeps to cowboys, pirates, beach bums, choir members, a caged circus beast, party girl, pizza topping, and John Lennon with Yoko Ono.

"I was kind of surprised how many it took. I had to make a run to the store for more Peeps," said Jolie Scholes of West Seattle, a hairstylist who used nearly 200 Peeps to create "Peepzilla," a monster head of lavender scales and pink spikes. The real Godzilla would be jealous; Scholes' handiwork was named "Best of Show" by the judges, who feared anything less might send it into a purple rage.

Four other entries to receive high honors were submitted by Serena Bennett of Kirkland; Suky Hutton of West Seattle; Molly, Annie and Joan Robertson of Seattle; and a combined entry from Kerry Smith of Lynnwood and Debbie Doty of Mukilteo.

This Easter season, an estimated 700 million Peeps Chicks, Bunnies and Eggs will be consumed around the world, say the people at Just Born Inc., who say that according to an actual survey, "the most popular way to eat them is fresh." (Sorry to all of you who voted for "stale as a piece of drywall.")

Nutritionally, Peeps are suspect at best. True, they have no fat, but neither does a 10-pound bag of sugar. The boxes point out Peeps are not a significant source of fiber, which is about as illuminating as saying the Yakima Valley is not a significant source of icebergs.

Soul food

But they do have a certain charm, said Lee Anne McDermott, who sent us photos of a dozen creations made by the Women of Sammamish Presbyterian Church during a break at a recent retreat.

"It gave us the gift of sharing laughter," she said. "Laughter is part of joy, and we all need that right now."

McDermott, 44, calls Peeps "a very forgiving medium," noting a Peep can be jabbed with a toothpick, and if the artist decides to pull the toothpick out and move it, little harm has been done.

High-school freshman Mike Hanson of Des Moines was less enthusiastic.

"The structural integrity of Peeps is virtually nil," he said, complaining that the gooey texture foiled his plans for a Star Trek-themed "Captain Peepcard and the starship Enterpeep." In frustration, he jabbed a single Peep full of toothpicks and proclaimed it "Acu-peep-ture."

Fun with puns

If the Peep-art submissions proved one thing, it is that a Peep artist cannot resist a play on words. Entries included Mary Peepins, Peep Sampras, Peepahontas, Peep-pe Longstockings, and (R rated for violence) The Peepinater.

"In my office, we have sort of a love/hate relationship with Peeps," said Barbara Wilson of North Seattle. "I love them, but my boss hates them ... so I'm always coming up with new ways to torment him with Peeps."

National Peeps winners


Check the official Peeps Web site to see the Washington state winner.
On Valentine's Day, Wilson had a dozen "long-stemmed Peeps" delivered to her boss, and she has a special surprise cooked up this year she can't disclose. But she did send us a photo of her creation from last Easter: Three hundred Peeps, purchased on sale the day after Easter, lined up in front of the 12,000-pipe Mormon Tabernacle Organ, joining silent voices as the "Peepernacle Choir."

While Northwest Life was soliciting talented Peep artisans, Just Born held its own contest, asking entrants to assemble Easter baskets representing the best features of their states.

A winner was selected in each state, with Judy Beliveau of Kent taking top honors here. Working with her two daughters, ages 3 and 6, she combined two small umbrellas with a Starbucks cup, Space Needle, ferry, salmon, Mount Rainier — and 40 Peeps, all together under a sign, "It's raining Chicks and Peeps in Washington State."

Her prize: $50 and 365 packs of Peeps. Notes Beliveau, "My husband says I clearly have too much time on my hands."

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com

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