Lake Tahoe Action Feature: March of the Peeps
This is not what I meant when I said I needed more chicks in my life.
Yet they seemed to seek me out: four neon-green Peeps, along with four sugar-encrusted marshmallow tulips (new this year).
They arrived on the Action desk in mid-January, well in advance of the Easter issue. The lettering on the box warned that these Peeps, in celebration of the Resurrection, were perishable. However I think these fresh treats will be around until the Second Coming.
Peeps are popular even past Easter, and Just Born, the Pennsylvania-based purveyor of Peeps, acknowledges that people do some pretty strange things with them.
Not only do Peeps now come in Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Christmas shapes in addition to Easter, and not only did Peeps play an important role in one of the greatest cycles of April Fool’s office pranks I’ve witnessed, but it turns out that the epicenter of Peepdom this week is a couple of hours down the road: Dave Smith’s house in midtown Sacramento.
“I actually really enjoy it. There’s not a whole lot to do in Sacramento ” you have to come up with stuff to do,” said Smith, host of the 2008 Peep Off, beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 29. “It was worse in the ’90s.”
The Peep Off is a contest. Competitors get 30 minutes to eat as many Peeps as they can, then can shove as many more Peeps in their mouths as they can to chew and swallow during a five-minute cooling-off period. Puking up a Peep gets you disqualified ” unless you eat it again.
That’s not the reason it’s known as the Dennis Gross Memorial Sacramento Peep Off (even though Gross is a pretty apt name): The name comes from the man who ingested an all-time record 102 Peeps during the 2003 event.
“They can be any color, but they have to be Peeps. The bunnies don’t count,” Smith said. A scofflaw who put away an inordinate number of marshmallow rabbits would have “Bunnies” next to the number in the record books.
“The most competitors I’ve had is probably 80, but usually about 30,” Smith said.
Smith has played host to the past few Peep Offs after the previous hosts said “enough.”
“Last year it was the first time it rained so it was inside, so my floors are still kind of sticky,” Smith said. “It’s a little better when they can hold the competition outside.
“They’re pretty indestructible,” Smith said. “It takes forever for them to dissolve. I was hoping for the squirrels to eat them, but the squirrels don’t even eat them.”
According to Wikipedia, the Peeps’ purported indestructibility has evolved into an urban legend. In an effort to establish whether it’s fact or fiction, Emory University scientists performed experiments to see whether Peeps could be dissolved. They concluded that the candy is indeed difficult to destroy.
The Peeps are the highlight of the festivities for the first Saturday after April, but they aren’t the only special thing Smith has in mind. He was probably joking about finding some armadillos to throw on the grill for the pre-Peep Off barbecue, but also mentioned Tabasco snow cones and chive ice cream.
“We always have to have something really disgusting,” Smith said. “Peeps are bad. I don’t like Peeps.”
But the Peeps aren’t the only guests of honor: Smith said the Sacramento Police Department occasionally sends representatives to the Peep Off. Smith says he won’t even talk to the Sacramento media ” maybe it has something to do with the Sacramento cops’ cordoning off the street to stop the Peep fight in 2000.
Like the Peeps themselves, their nesting spot in Sacramento pop culture also might be perishable. Smith might not be the host of a 12th annual Peep Off, as he’s planning on taking a motorcycle trip around the world: “I’m hoping to be on another continent,” he said.