Crozet Pair Win Washington Post’s Peeps Contest

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Lani Hoza and Leslie Brown
Lani Hoza and Leslie Brown

Leslie Brown and Lani Hoza, coworkers at Western Albemarle High School, won the Washington Post’s seventh annual Peep’s Diorama Contest, announced just before Easter, with their entry “Twinkie: Rest in Peeps.” Their diorama is a funeral scene for the Twinkie and a general lament for the passing other Hostess bakery confections, such as Ho Hos and Ding Dongs.

Peeps are the marshmallow bunnies and chicks that are produced around the Easter holiday. In the contest, contestants create dioramas, within a base limit of three feet by three feet and walls no more than two feet high, that use peeps as characters. Brown’s and Hoza’s scene was selected by Post staffers from 650 entries.

In the scene, well-dressed mourners fill the pews and a Peep Pope delivers a eulogy for the Twinkie that lies in half-open casket. Beyond the sanctuary in the church yard lies the freshly dug grave Twinkie is bound for, where he’ll lie in company with fruit pies, cupcakes and sno balls. Hostess announced its bankruptcy in November, but recent news is that there is a buyer for the company after all.

“In perpetuity we’ll be known for graveyards for marshmallows,” quipped Hoza. “It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? We have similar senses of humor. We laugh a lot and we think it’s clever. The goal is to come up with an idea you can execute.”

The pair first entered the contest three years ago and Brown admitted that her determination to win has only gotten stronger.

“We’d seen the contest and I was always intrigued by these sorts of things,” she said. “We stated getting funny with the idea of a memorial for the Twinkie. After we had the cemetery idea, it just sort of took off.”

Detail of "Twinkie: Rest In Peeops"
Detail of “Twinkie: Rest In Peeps”

Brown, who sews, is the couturiere for the diaorama, said Hoza. Brown made all the Peeps’ costumes and the pew cushions. Hoza concentrated on making the graveyard, which includes a toothpick fence and clay tombstones. The diorama took about 35 hours to complete, they said.

They had to look online to find a Twinkie and ended up paying $4 for it, Hoza said. They estimated their total construction costs at nearly $100, which is the value of the gift card they won. They will also receive a “Peeps gift pack,” but they have no idea what that might contain.

“We were quite tickled when we finished,” said Brown. “Everybody says it’s our best.”

The entries, which include two photographs, were cut down to 50 for a slide show that Post lifestyle section staffers watched and then reduced further to a short list of five contenders that were then voted on. The Post called the duo’s idea for the diorama “wildly popular our newsroom.”

“Twinkie: Rest in Peeps,” by Lani Hoza and Leslie Brown.
“Twinkie: Rest in Peeps,” by Lani Hoza and Leslie Brown.

The Post informed the pair they had made it to the finalist stage in advance of the general announcement of a winner, and in a bit of irony for a business that thrives on information leaks, swore them to secrecy.

“You need the idea, that’s the main thing, and then you execute it as best you can. There’s a thought process and we take it seriously. You can be disqualified for a visible spot of glue,” said Brown. “We manicured it for loose threads. We put in moldings in order to have clean edges.”

The diorama will go on display at Art-o-Matic, a sort of art display space in D.C., and there will be a reception for it (that Brown and Hoza intend to be at) and then, its Peeps stale and desiccated, it will be thrown out.

The pair are already thinking about a concept that can be “Peepified” for next year’s entry.