Peeps were originally a seasonal treat for Easter. But their extended family now includes chicks of many hues and seasonal cousins, like marshmallow snowmen, chocolate-covered Christmas trees and candy-cane-colored Peeps.

Peepsfest is a welcome break for families during that frustrating time between the novelty of Christmas gifts wearing off and school not yet reopening. Held at SteelStacks, an arts and cultural center at the former Bethlehem Steel Plant, the two-day festival is crammed with activities that will entertain, educate, and – with any luck – exhaust the kids.

There are performances by magicians, dancing at the family disco, coloring contests, and mini-music lessons. Gather around a bonfire to make Peeps S’mores. Search for Peeps in a scavenger hunt. The Bethlehem Mounted Police bring their horses, and the Wildlands Conservancy visits. When the kids need some down time, a film shows how Peeps are made and how kids celebrate New Year’s in other countries.

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One of the most popular events is the diorama contest. Local schoolchildren create scenes using Peeps. One hundred dioramas are entered by students from kindergarten through 12th grade. They’re seasonal, serious, silly, and generally sensational.

On New Year’s Eve, many activities move outdoors. Mascots from local schools and sports teams chug along a 50-yard dash. Age-specific dashes along the same course follow. That’s followed by a 5K Run, Walk, Jog, or Just Finish course, with the first 500 entries getting a t-shirt and goodie bag (undoubtedly filled with Peeps).

The event ends with the dropping of the ceremonial Peeps, with the honor of pressing the button that triggers the drop going to the winner of the diorama contest. Keeping in mind that most kids won’t make it to midnight, a 4.5-foot tall, 8-pound, lighted Peeps chick drops at 5 p.m., followed by a fireworks display.

For more about Bethlehem, visit www.discoverlehighvalley.com

For more travel tips, go to www.insightguides.com.

- by Fran Severn