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Peeps have inspired at least two newspaper contests, in which entrants dress up their marshmallows and place them in thematic dioramas. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Young, old continue to have fun with indestructible Peeps

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Forget chocolate eggs and bunnies. Forget dying Easter eggs.

If there was ever a food product more fun to play with than Peeps, it remains to be seen.

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"I made a chess set with my Peeps," said a middle-aged woman who swore the Enterprise to secrecy, to keep her nameless.

"I sprayed polyurethane on them and they lasted for years before they disintegrated."

Peeps disintegrate? They're indestructible.

The chess player's companion, also declining to reveal her identity, said she puts them in Easter bouquets, spearing them on toothpicks and inserting them into floral masterpieces.

"Can't you find a three-year-old to interview?" they laughed.

No, but we found a 66-year-old.

"I've been eating them ever since I can remember," said Andy Roberts.

"My wife bought me a box just last week."

They're already gone, so Andy went out Thursday night Easter candy shopping, to ensure he had enough to last him through the holiday.

"I like the yellow chicks," Andy said. "It's just what I'm used to." He swears there's a difference in taste between the rascally rabbits and the chicks.

And, he truly believes each color tastes different, while remaining partial to the original chicks.

"I just like to put them in the microwave and watch them blow up," said Brandee Severtson, an alleged adult.

The confection is made in the U.S.A., in Bethlehem, Pa., by an 85-year-old family-run business called Just Born, Inc.

From yellow Easter chicks the company branched out into multi-colored bunnies, Valentine's Day marshmallow goodies, Halloween treats, and Christmas Peeps, which include a squishy line of snowmen, gingerbread boys and Christmas trees.

The company didn't begin with Peeps, said spokeswoman Milena DeLuca. Its founder, Sam Born, a Russian émigré, actually started making chocolate sprinkles and chocolate coating for ice cream bars.

The iconic Peeps came in the 1950s after Born acquired another Pennsylvania candy company.

Gooey history was made.

Peeps have gained legendary status in Chicago. Its newspaper sponsors an annual Easter diorama contest online, in which creative readers re-enact the day's events, dress their Peeps in dinky costumes and come up with outrageous scenarios to place their sugary creations into.

Hundreds of entries have been uploaded to the Chicago Tribune Web site. To say they're hilarious would understate the creativity of the endeavors.

Peeps staged the "Miracle on the Hudson," lines of chicks perched on the wings of a plastic airplane; a "Peepmobile" drove around with a pastel pontiff inside a bullet-proof golf cart; the "Octopeeps" made several appearances and Illinois' former governor was "Impeeped" on the front pages of the newspaper.

So if you can't physically swallow food that could outlast the next millennium, log on to www.chicagotribune.com to get your fill of Peep-le. Or check out a similar contest at the St. Paul Pioneer Press at www.twincities.com, featuring Paul Bunyan and the Blue Peep.

Because as many of the diorama artists submitted, "Give Peeps a chance."

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