Peeps, the omnipresent marshmallow Easter candy, have raided Peddler’s Village. Find them playing soccer, driving tractors, drinking coffee, cheering on the Eagles, listening to the Beatles — all in the confines of the New Hope shopping center.

Wednesday, April 17, marked the start of the inaugural Peeps in the Village, a 12-day exhibit of homespun displays featuring dozens of the colorful chicks and their rabbit-eared comrades across three categories: 2-D wall art, diorama, and sculpture. Seventy submissions will battle it out for first place prizes, determined by visitors’ votes.

“I might argue that Peeps are better for art than for eating,” said Joe Albert, Peddler’s Village festivals and events director. “They’re gooshy, so you can mold them. But if you leave them out for a couple days, they become hard, and then you can cut them and connect them, almost like LEGOs.”

"Philly PEEP-natic" sculpture submission to Peddler's Village Peeps in the Village contest
Grace Dickinson / STAFF
"Philly PEEP-natic" sculpture submission to Peddler's Village Peeps in the Village contest

Manufactured by Bethlehem-based candy company Just Born Quality Confections — which churns out an average 5.5 million Peeps per day — Peeps have become a magnet for creativity. They are more than candy, being microwaved in the service of science experiments, acting as the medium for sculptures (like the 4-foot-tall blue-and-purple “PEEPcock” at Peddler’s Village), and populating a decade and a half’s worth of dioramas.

At Peeps in the Village, the sugarcoated marshmallows have been arranged into the likeness of the Phillie Phanatic (renamed “PEEP-natic”), served up as a thick-crust “PEEPza,” and molded into elephants performing on a “Cirque du Peeps” stage. In a Friends-derived diorama, Peeps chat with each other in a meticulously re-created Central Perk. A Game of Thrones scene finds a pink Peep on the Iron Throne. And a Peep astronaut stands on top of the moon in “One Giant Leap for PEEP.”

"Coffee with my PEEPS" diorama submission to Peddler's Village Peeps in the Village contest
Grace Dickinson / STAFF
"Coffee with my PEEPS" diorama submission to Peddler's Village Peeps in the Village contest

While the New Hope exhibit is imaginative (and impressive), don’t expect to see the likes of what was probably the country’s best-known Peeps showcase — the Washington Post’s diorama contest.

The recently ended Post competition may have had the highest profile, but the St. Paul Pioneer Press actually began the diorama tradition in 2004, when a features writer was tasked with filling an Easter Sunday section. Other papers — the Chicago Tribune, the Denver Post, the San Jose Mercury News — adopted the practice, followed by community centers, public libraries, and shopping hubs like Peddler’s Village.

Each contest takes on its own bent: The Pioneer Press’ first year evidently drew lots of religious-themed entries, while the Post’s 10-year-run throve on the juxtaposition of politics and Peeps.

While it incorporates some current events, the Peddler’s Village version is designed to be 100 percent family-friendly, and so it steers clear of any political, religious, or other controversial subject matter.

“We wanted to keep it light. You come here to get away from all of that,” Albert said.

A scene from the "Cirque de PEEPS" diorama submission to the Peeps in the Village contest in New Hope.
Grace Dickinson / STAFF
A scene from the "Cirque de PEEPS" diorama submission to the Peeps in the Village contest in New Hope.

As a result, kiddos are bound to love much of the three-room exhibit, peppered with familiar characters like a Peep-wrought Princess Peach and a “PEEP Patrol to the Rescue” diorama. Many are crafted by kids themselves.

“They loved the idea of being able to play with their food,” said Leanne Sebastian of her twin 3-year-old daughters, who helped carve a “Philadelphia PEEPles Champions” Super Bowl trophy sculpture surrounded by bleachers of Peeps. “The hardest part was getting them to wait until the end to eat any — there was a lot of begging in between the gluing and painting.”

Voting will take place through April 25, and contest winners will be announced on April 27 at the Peddler’s Village Spring KidFest.

Peeps in the Village, through April 28, Peddler’s Village, 2400 Street Rd., New Hope, free, peddlersvillage.com