Cross Post: Riftwing’s Bronycon Report
Preface: If you don’t know what a brony is, I recommend you reading at least the preface and first chapter of my e-book: My Little Brony: Our Fandom is Magic.
It started six months ago. I skipped the winter Bronycon because I was far too busy during the holidays. When they announced the next Bronycon was moving to a bigger venue, it was tempting enough for me to commit to going. The commitment was shaky; I was disappointed when BroNYCon was moved to BroNJcon (they changed venues to the Meadowlands in New Jersey). This was a damper for many – those in prior attendance claimed that it was much more fun to be in the heart of New York City with fellow bronies. Still, I have been to enough anime and science fiction conventions to know when one looks good, and I bought in.
While all conventions take volunteers (which provides free admission), I had never volunteered for Otakon because of its sheer size. To volunteer would be taking too much time away from attempting to see everything (which I am never successful with at Otakon). Bronycon seemed small enough that I could put in a few hours and still manage to see everything I wanted to. Further solidifying my commitment, I accepted a position in registration and was even approved to wear a costume while working.
I am a massive fan of costumes. Hallowe’en is my favourite holiday, and conventions are an awesome excuse to dress up at other times. If you have knowledge of anime costumes, then you should know that they are often known for their candy-coloured wigs and odd outfits, which are based off the animation designs. However, in My Little Pony most ponies don’t wear clothes. As such, it requires creative license to make costumes. They fall into three general categories:
- Fursuits – making costumes that look like the actual ponies
- Anthropomorphic cosplay – Wearing ears, horns, wings, and a tail, so you look like a human/pony hybrid
- Human cosplay – Wearing outfits and wigs to look like the pony, but if the character was in human form
While I enjoy neko (cat anthropomorphism), I’m not too big into wearing a horn on my head, so I have made all my pony costumes as human. And yes, it is already costumes plural. I have made four cosplays thus far, to varying degrees of difficulty. Some are just taking a wig and making outfits, as seen above.
This red and blue beauty was fully made-from-scratch. I am proud of it; this is the most difficult costume I had made to date. I was hoping to enter this into the Bronycon and Otakon costume contests. These contests typically judge outfits based on craftsmanship. Unfortunately, Otakon does not allow original costumes made for characters – those entering the costume contest must be exact replicas of the cartoon character. That means only Fursuits can enter the Otakon contest. And Bronycon’s costume contest… well, let’s just say that their inexperience showed. There were no registrations or qualifications and I literally had to hunt down a pass to enter the contest.
While you may not have a clue why these costumes are My Little Pony themed, I’ll tell you the secret: Each pony has a mark on their flank, called a “cutie mark”. Having this symbol on your person will show which character you are meant to be, even if the outfit is difficult to interpret. For example, in the blue-haired costume, the joined eighth notes are the cutie mark for the DJ Vinyl Scratch. In the fancy “steampunk” outfit, my handbag is one of the cutie marks of the Flim Flam brothers.
But enough about what I wore, let’s get back to the con!
In addition to spending a ton of time making my FlimFlam costume, I also decided to sell some of the pony sundries that I had been making as gifts and for my Etsy. This turned into sharing a sales table with a fellow DC brony. Which turned into me wanting to make as much as possible to sell. This insured that the two weeks prior to the convention were rushed and contained very little time for sleep.
Suffice it to say that when we all met to carpool up to Jersey at 7am Friday morning, the four of us were hyped up on lack of sleep, eustress, and adrenaline. I had the responsibility of riding shotgun, and conversation flowed freely on the 4+ hour drive. I also have the responsibility of running the DC bronies Twitter account, and there were more than enough excited tweets to retweet and spread the hype on the way up.
We arrived a little after noon, and in the parking garage we began to see My Little Pony stickers adorning cars. In the hotel lobby, we automatically began greeting everyone warmly. If they were not bronies, they’d just shrug and leave, but bronies stood and welcomed each other. Many were wearing pony shirts, making for easy identification. I quickly realized that one such person I welcomed was a Dutch brony that had a high-powered laser in his luggage. In the world of bronies, he’s known as Laser Pon3. I gave him a sticker that I made, and thus began the exchange of friendship with strangers who became incredibly close friends by the end of the weekend.
As I volunteered to work pre-registration, I dropped my bags, tossed on my Vinyl Scratch costume and went over to the Meadowlands Exposition Center. This weekend, it would be known as Bronycon.
Besides the massive sign out front, the first thing we noticed was that there was an impressive set of stairs where bronies were gathering. This turned out to be ground zero for bronies when the con wasn’t open.
For a young con (I might say this a lot), registration wasn’t too confusing, although I had to get two badges – one for vending, one for volunteering. (Thankfully, I didn’t need my general admission badge, too!) In less than an hour, I set up a display rack for my sales table and was trained to register.
Then I was up and running, greeting attendees both famous and not, from near and far. I made it a game to ask where folks were from (Massachusetts and Ottawa were quite common), their mode of transport, their hotel. Everyone was nice, although some were quite shy. It’s for those shy folks that I put in the extra effort. I am so glad that the Bronies can welcome and accept folks that may enjoy it, but not yet know how to express themselves yet. Lord knows I was a wallflower throughout my grade school years, and many attendees were of that age. They ranged from under 10 to a man who I believe was 70+ and carried the “oldest Brony” sign with him as a mark of honour. I hope I’m that cool when I grow up.
I began to feel woozy at 8pm. Running on 4 hours of sleep and adrenaline, my body was giving in. Thankfully, I recognized the signals and redoubled my effort to have fun and chat up everyone that passed my gaze, using those good feelings to keep me awake. It was tough, but I made it to 10pm and then immediately passed out at the hotel. The sleep was badly needed.
At 7am Saturday I woke up and sneaked into the con using my vendors’ badge. It was a bit of a disappointment not to wait in line to enter – that is a tradition at Otakon that has become expected. As vendors, we also got first dibs at others’ works, and I was still shopping around when the floodgates opened. (Unfortunately, people were let in 15 minutes before opening, so I had to fight to get my last items from vendors that were now swamped with bronies throwing their money around.)
My booth was much quieter, and while I did manage to sell the full dozen of my Discord figures within three hours, my gloves, charms, and stickers did not sell well. I was not disappointed, however. I counted myself as one of many vendors who sold out before the day was over, and the lack of continued sales lent us time to be able to enjoy the con activities.
There were very few panels that I wanted to see, with the exception of the first Voice Actors panel. Everything that I attended I could barely hear – a combination of poor acoustics, poor audio engineering, and the chatter of 4,000 bronies. Thankfully, Everfree Radio recorded the panels and the sound was slightly better on playback after the con. Panels that occurred, but I did not participate in, include Twitter roleplay, musicians, podcasters, pony music videos, artists, and fan fiction.
Perhaps the most enjoyable event was watching the premiere of the newest episode of the fan parody, Friendship is Witchcraft. When I’m watching episodes with other bronies, I feel a sense of connectedness, and when we all laugh and applaud and cheer on the show, it is exhilarating.
Three major guests elicited the same response. The first was Lauren Faust, creator and mastermind of the rebooted series. The second is John De Lancie, also known as Q from Star Trek, who played a Q-like villain on the show. Finally, Tara Strong, the voice actress for the main character (Twilight Sparkle) is known as “queen of the Bronies” due to her massive trolling campaign on Twitter. While only De Lancie may be normally treated as royalty, these three all were treated like rock stars at Bronycon. The bronies were unrelenting in their cheers, gifts, requests for autographs, and praise-rain. I did not partake in these activities. While they are great, I did not have a spare $30 an autograph to meet these famous contributors face to face. But from what I saw of them, they all seemed like genuinely good people.
De Lancie also had in his tow a documentary crew of over 20 people who were filming the con for Bronycon: The Documentary, which is meant to shed positive light on the fandom. Sadly, many that don’t take the time to learn about bronies still think that we are all are gay, or worse, pedophiles. Let me say: if there are bad bronies, none were at Bronycon. Not only was there was nothing bad going down at the con, most didn’t even drink. We were all high on happiness and friendship, as cheesy as it sounds.
I was definitely on cloud nine at what was called “BronyPalooza”, a rave which featured only music done by Brony musicians. They have made music of every genre – from dubstep to rap to eurobeat, so it wasn’t hard to put together a two hour long music marathon.
My buddy Laser Pon3 even put on a show, and it was so beautiful, in combination with sharing the moment with so many other bronies, that I had an existential moment – I was so amazed and glad to be watching this, but also wished I could remember it forever, even after I was gone. But I blinked away my fears and immersed myself in the moment. There was epic dancing, glowsticks everywhere, and even a few of the guests of honor got up on stage and danced!
During the rave, folks moshed, grinded, even crowd surfed! And to end it all, the final performer, Mic the Microphone, stage dived into the crowd. I have never witnessed such a willing crowd surge toward a common goal. It was insane.
No one wanted to sleep after that. Unfortunately, my group was unable to find a hopping party, so we parted ways and tried to get some sleep.
I dreamed about bronies.
I woke unable to speak, my body aching, reminding me of the epic night. The DC brony group was giving gifts to the major guests in the morning, and I joined the group in line – the second of two massive lines needed just to get an autograph, averaging 2-5 hours total. When we were nearing the head of the line, we saw near the center of the main forum a fire dripping from one of the lights. The panelists told everyone to evacuate, but instead the crowd just tweeted and took pictures.
I looked behind us, found the emergency exit, told folks of its existence, and then also began to tweet. Everyone stood around, clueless. It was hilarious. Judging by the location of the fire, I think it may have been started due to a rogue glow-necklace that was thrown up there the night before. Either way, we eventually evacuated, and ended up giving gift 1 of 2 to Tara strong outside.
Then it was back to waiting in line, another hour before we could wave from a distance to Faust as our representative delivered our gift to her. It was anticlimactic, to say the least.
I ran off to enter the costume contest, and it was disappointing. There were no categories – handmade got no better marks than store bought. Skill and age meant nothing. The only thing they did was separate group costumes from single entrants. I am upset about it because I wanted my craftsmanship judged against others of my skill, but again, it is a young con and I bet they didn’t know any better. Hopefully next year they change the rules…
We skipped out on closing ceremonies, since they are always a bore, and had our first real hot meal of the weekend at the Outback Steakhouse attached to our hotel. Once full, the DCbronies simply met up and watched Dr. Horrible and some pony music videos before finally succumbing to convention fatigue.
For me, the entire two day convention was epic! Any shorter or longer, and I might have had different feelings. I was also expecting the intensity of the convention to rub some of my pony obsession off, but that did not work. I’m still addicted to the brony community. Seeing so many people, going to a convention with my brony friends, experiencing such a positive, open, and uplifting community on a massive scale has only served to reinforce how awesome it is to be a brony.
So, while I’m still your loving District Geek, there will still be more pony in your future. Heads up.
Of course, having seen many successful and well-aged conventions, on the drive back we brainstormed ways it can be improved. When I applied as a volunteer, the staff did ask if I wanted to be an administrative assistant, but due to work commitments, I had to turn that down. Now, of course I am tempted to take up that torch. Confound these, ponies! They drive me not only to co-lead the Washington, DC group, but also perhaps the East Coast’s largest Brony meetup? We shall see…