The Mondor family used to get weird looks at the cash register when they would clear out a grocery store's PEEPS supply.
These days, it's commonplace to see folks in the Carroll County, Maryland area filling their shopping carts with the iconic marshmallow candy.
"It's kind of a local thing now," Mondor, 43, of Westminster said, "So people are like, 'Oh, we know what you're doing.'"
Mondor and dozens of other people in the area haven't been purchasing hundreds of sugared chicks and bunnies for their Easter baskets. They've used the colorful candy to craft artwork for the ninth annual PEEPshow at the Carroll Arts Center, an event organized by and benefiting the Carroll County Arts Council. Submissions are inspired by or made with PEEPS.
"It's a way to spend time with your family," said Mondor, who has made PEEPS art with his wife and two children for five years. "It's a great way to support the community. The arts council does so much."
JoAnna Crone, communications coordinator for the arts council, said each year the competition "gets a little bigger and a little more sugary."
"We have about 175 entries this year, and they come from individuals, businesses, community organizations," she said.
Mosaics, dioramas, sculptures and videos are some of the types of art submitted for the show.
Crone is crafting a sculpture inspired by artist Bob Ross, with the vibrant marshmallow candy serving as "paint" on a palette.
"It's just fun," she said. "It brings out the creativity in everybody, even people who say, 'I can't even draw a straight line,' or 'I'm not artistic.' They feel empowered to create something out of PEEPS. They're just so cute and non-threatening. People who are scared of painting or drawing aren't afraid to pick up a hot glue gun and some PEEPS."
The PEEPshow, which is on display March 25 through April 6, is the arts council's largest fundraiser, Crone said. Last year, the show attracted approximately 27,300 people.
There is no admission fee to visit the PEEPshow at the arts center, located at 91 W. Main St. in Westminster. Donations will be accepted, and visitors may purchase voting chips to vote for their favorite artwork. The chips are sold for $1 each, 10 for $5, 25 for $10, 75 for $25 or 200 for $50. Voting ends at 5 p.m. April 6.
Participants with the top eight highest number of votes will be announced 6:30 p.m. April 6.
Mondor said his family has little background in the arts. He is a state trooper, and his wife, Ann, works for a financial planner. His daughter, Lauren, 11, is artistic, he said, while his son Sean, 13, mainly enjoys the competition of the PEEPshow. He's already looking ahead to next year's submission, Mondor said.
The family received first place last year for their sculpture of Walt Disney's Goofy. Another year, they built a true-to-size Big Bird from Sesame Street.
The marshmallow creations caught the attention of Just Born, the company behind PEEPS. Just Born displayed Big Bird at its Bethlehem, Pennsylvania headquarters, and Goofy can currently be seen at the facility, as well as "Left Shark," a dancer made famous during Katy Perry's NFL Super Bowl halftime show in 2015, according to Brand Manager Christina Check.
"To say we take pride in these fan submissions would be an understatement, and we love to display the best of the best," Check said in a written statement.
As PEEPS have grown in popularity, they have inspired art contests across the country.
"PEEPS used in dioramas or other creations has become a cultural phenomenon, and we are over the moon as we watch traditions continue to grow," Check stated. "We would have never guessed more than 60 years ago that PEEPS would be used for more than just the enjoyment around Easter, and the brand takes pride in their fans' commitment and creativity as they express their PEEPSONALITY."
Proceeds from the PEEPshow benefit various programs at the Carroll Arts Center, which will have official PEEP merchandise for sale in its gift shop, Crone said. The center is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, and admission is free. For more information, call 410-848-7272 or visit carrollcountyartscouncil.org.
If you go:
What: Carroll Arts Center's 9th annual PEEPshow
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, including Easter, March 25 through April 6
Where: Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster
For more information, call 410-848-7272 or visit carrollcountyartscouncil.org.