So what do you actually do at a My Little Pony convention? A lot, it turns out.
There were 105 different sessions involving topics like fan fiction, art, and the My Little Pony card game, along with presentations from producers, writers, musicians, and voice actors from the show. Contests included from cosplay, or dressing up as favorite characters, card games, and video games. Bronies filled up the auditorium for a live auction of handmade pony items, which raised $26,874 for a variety of charities. Each night, Bronies flocked to the basement of the convention for Bronypolooza, a six-hour concert featuring a total of 18 different musicians. Whether they knew you or not, BronyCon attendees would willing give out a Broohoof, the pony version of a fist bump, as you passed them in the halls.
Jesse Kendra, 22, a medical sales representative, was frequently asked to pose for pictures and complimented on his cosplay. In the weeks before the convention, Kendra spent his free time working with his grandmother to sew the giant Pinkie Pie mane that he wore on his head throughout BronyCon. As his picture was taken, Kendra had a huge smile on his face and hollered, “I guess I should call my Nana tonight and tell her it was a huge hit.”
Although Kendra attended the year before, this was his first year involving cosplay. For him, it was a totally different experience than just wearing a My Little Pony t-shirt to the convention. “When I went to the convention last year, I had a great time, but I was more of an observer,” said Kendra. “But once I put on my wig, I became my character and was actually a participant in the convention. I actually felt like a completely different person.”
For the second year in a row, Kendra traveled to BronyCon, caravan-style, with fellow Bronies from the Lehigh Valley Brony Group in Pennsylvania. When asked what exactly the group does at meetings, Kendra explained that it’s just the same as any other group of people with a common interest: “We watch episodes, go on hikes, and talk about the show.”
Many Bronies create original artwork based on the show—208 vendors sold their handmade artwork, sculptures, and hats throughout the weekend. One of them, 22-year-old Neil Wacaster, was particularly popular, but he made time to speak to every one of his 35,000 online fans from Facebook and other websites who came to the booth to meet him in real life. As a full-time Brony who has attended over 35 Brony conventions, Wacaster says he has attended more My Little Pony events than any other fan he has met.
“Before I became a Brony, I was barely making a few hundred bucks a month, but now I make a comfortable living selling online and at conventions. I even was able to hire two staff members,” he said.
As the convention winded down and Kendra carried his luggage out to the car, he was already making plans to attend BronyCon 2015. When I asked him his favorite part, he laughed, reminding me there were still two hours left and it wasn’t over yet. “It is incredible to get to meet people I have only talked to online and be around such inspiring people. There is so much positivity and acceptance here. It really was a surreal weekend for me.”