Peeps — those nearly fluorescent marshmallow chicks and bunnies — aren’t just for eating.
One-third of Peeps purchased aren’t intended for human consumption, according to a 2015 survey conducted by Just Born, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania company that manufactures the colorful candies.
And indeed, they seem to be more pop-culture phenomenon than foodstuff.
Some of those uneaten — and some would say inedible — treats wind up the victims of mad experiments involving microwaves. One popular variation, Peep jousting, finds chicks armed with toothpicks in head-to-head combat. The first to swell and stab its opponent is victorious.
A meme even suggests using the gooey goodies as wine-bottle stoppers or placing them beneath the short leg of a wobbly chair to stabilize it.
But some of the fluffy figurines give their lives for art. Among them are the colorful critters who wind up standing in for literary characters in the Olympia Timberland Library’s annual Peeps literary diorama contest.
Gearing up for its seventh year of sweet tributes, the library has more than 100 of the toothache-inducing critters ready for a Tuesday crafting session aimed at getting artists of all ages started on their dioramas.
Entries must be shoebox-sized (though the library interprets that loosely) and based on literary works from picture books to Shakespearean tragedies. The main rule: Peeps must portray the leading characters.
The contest is popular with the crafty, attracting 68 entries last year, and with library visitors who appreciate art, books, candy or any combination of those things.
Entries are due at the library April 13. Library visitors can vote on the dioramas between April 14 and 26, and winners will be announced at an awards ceremony April 27.
Winners will be chosen in multiple categories: families and groups, children 4-7, children 8-11, teens (12-17) and adults — plus the Peeple’s Choice Award, which this year comes with the prize of a giant stuffed Peep.
Last year, the Peeple’s Choice winner was Helene Adams’s diorama based on “The Secret Garden,” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The elaborate scene included a door that opened, working lights and a garden that included real plants and moss, said library associate Emily Vineberg, one of the contest organizers.
“It was just beautiful,” Vineberg said. “It was over the top.” (One might even call it a masterpeep.)
The Olympia contest is one of eight Peeps diorama challenges listed on Just Born’s marshmallowpeeps.com. The best-known competition was started by The Washington Post in 2007 and rescued by the alternative weekly Washington City Paper when the Post pulled the plug last year, citing a decrease in participation.
Reporting on the change, Food & Wine’s Mike Pomranz applauded City Paper’s decision to keep the fun going. “Someone’s got to keep this tradition alive,” he wrote. “I mean, what are people supposed to do with all those extra Peeps? Eat them?”
Such setbacks don’t seem to have dimmed the hopes of theatrically inclined Peeps — or of Just Born, which each year offers new twists on the 65-year-old formula, including chocolate coatings and flavors from sour watermelon to pancakes and syrup.
Indeed, stardom may have gone to the Easter icons’ marshmallow-filled heads: The latest Peeps innovation, inspired by the Energizer Bunny, involves sunglasses printed on the faces of the bunny-shaped ones.
Peep Into My Favorite Book
What: Peeps candies play the starring roles in literary dioramas submitted to the Olympia Timberland Library’s seventh annual contest.
When: Entries will be accepted Monday through April 13. Voting happens April 14-26, and there’ll be an awards reception at 6:15 p.m. April 27.
Where: Olympia Timberland Library, 313 Eighth Ave. SE, Olympia
More information: 360-352-0595, trl.org
Crafting session: Get started at a drop-in workshop from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the library. All supplies will be provided.
According to Just Born, the maker of Peeps:
• In 1953, when Peeps candies were first made, it took 27 hours to create one. Today, thanks to advances in technology, it takes six minutes.
• Each year, Just Born makes enough Peeps to circle the earth twice.
• Yellow is America's best selling color of Peeps.
• Each traditional Peeps chick — the kind without chocolate coating — has 28 calories. Bunnies have 27.5 calories.
• Just Born’s name has nothing to do with the fact that its most famous product is modeled after a newborn chicken. The name was chosen because founder Sam Born displayed candy in his store window with a sign that proclaimed the fresh items “just born.”