Our trip to the Canterlot Gardens Convention

Canterlot Gardens Convention. Ohio. 2,000 My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans. Artist’s Gallery. Fighting is Magic Tournament. Panels. VA autographs. Cosplay. Music. Dancing. Swag. Bronies. Lots of ‘em.

Here is the story of our trip to Canterlot Gardens.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who loved ponies. And her brothers loved them too…

The pitch:

I would do just about anything for my kids. Seriously. Walk through fire, climb the highest mountain, and all that. So, when they called a family meeting – all 4 of them together, I immediately became suspicious.

My oldest produced his MacBook Air, and proceeded to give a presentation on Canterlot Gardens – a 3 day long My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic convention to be held in Cleveland, Ohio.  He included a spreadsheet showing 5 different options with costs, and a project schedule including a timeline and what we would need to pack.

I was impressed. First of all, I’ve had people work for me that couldn’t come up with that good of a presentation. And secondly, all 4 of them were working together. And not arguing. They were united.  So, I listened. Dad and I said we’d talk it over.

We decided as much as they wanted to, the kids couldn’t skip school to go. And Dad couldn’t miss work on Friday. Also, we had to be back by Sunday evening to prep for Monday. We are on a pretty strict budget, and since there are 6 of us we’d have to rent 2 hotel rooms. It would be 7 hours driving each way, at $4/gallon. We’d also need to eat.

We worked out a plan. We would pack Friday night, then get up at 3 a.m. Saturday morning and be on the road by 4 a.m. at the latest. We would drive, stopping once for gas / potty break, straight to the Convention.  We went over the Camelot Gardens schedule and decided the events we had to hit were the VA Panel, and the Music showcase. We would also hit the Artist’s gallery, for some MLP swag, and the 3 boys registered for the Fighting is Magic tournament (at $8 each – which sold out in 2 days).

The kids were bummed we’d miss the Friday events, including Legends of Equestria panel, Andrew W.K., the Gala, and the PON3 party. But, Canterlot Gardens was live streaming the entire event, and we figured we’d catch the live stream or You Tube afterwards to see what we had missed.

This was the best we could do.

Ponies aren’t just for girls…

On our way to Canterlot Gardens and Ohio

The kids woke us up promptly at 3 a.m., dressed and ready to go. In the car at 4 a.m., we were on our way. It was dark, and foggy, and the full moon hinted from behind the clouds. The kids were so excited, they couldn’t sleep. After 3 hours driving, the sun came up, and driving was easier. Breakfast at 6 a.m. was granola bars and a banana. Lunch at 10 a.m. was turkey sandwiches and grapes.

Flipped the TomTom on as we approached Cleveland, and pulled in to a packed Holiday Inn parking lot at a little after 10 a.m. Finally found a parking spot, and as we were uncorking ourselves from the car, cosplayers and guys with fleece pony hats could be seen passing by. (Uncorking = 6 people in a van driving for over 7 hours = a tangle of iPods, headphones, laptops, pillows, blankets, water bottles, books, sweatshirts, backpacks. Yeah.)

We grabbed our xBox controller (for the FiM tourney), water bottles, email confirmation printouts, wallets, and a sketchbook to pass the time, and headed for the entrance.

Cosplayers were everywhere. People were spilling out of the Holiday Inn, hanging out under the covered entrance area. People were singing, laughing, posing, taking photos. We went in. It was mobbed. Wall to wall people.

We headed for the registration table in the lobby, gave them our email printouts, and got our 6 badges. There was a big sign “Pre-Registrations only – No Walk-ins”. They were sold out. The guy at the table said because we were there with 2 kids under 14 we could tell the staff at the head of each line we had kids, and they’d get us right in, with no waiting in line. Cool.

We slowly made our way through the hotel, trying to get our bearings. There was no map of the hotel showing where events were, only a yellow sheet showing the event schedule for the day. We worked our way to the back of the hotel where the lounge was, went by the smallish room where the VA’s were signing autographs, went by the Canterlot Gardens Store room, went by the gaming room where tons of PCs and laptops were set up along with a massive screen and projector, and lastly went by the huge main room where the panels and music events were held.

There were cosplayers everywhere, and people of all ages, colors, sizes. The walls were lined with people, and every chair or sofa was full. Everyone seemed to be in line for something, but we had no idea what each line was for.

Artist’s Gallery

Since the panel we wanted to hit was the VA Panel at 1 p.m., we had some time, so we headed for the Artist’s Gallery. There was a huge line waiting to get in. We tried to get in line, only to be told the line was closed and we had to leave and come back later, when the line was only ½ the hallway in length. We had to not block the way. So we walked back to the lobby area. It was super crowded.

Every time we stopped for a minute, staff would approach us and tell us we couldn’t stand there, we had to move.  We walked around some more, and every time we stopped to talk about what we should do or where we should go, we were warned by staff we were in the way and had to move. After the 5rd time, I started to get annoyed.

Seriously, people, I understand the need to keep hallways clear and traffic “flowing” but we weren’t blocking anything. And unless we were pressed up tight against a wall, we got grief. It felt less like Canterlot Gardens and more like Canterlot Chaos.

We headed back to the Artist’s Gallery line, and watched as more and more people exited the gallery, and the line going in got shorter and shorter, and yet people were still being turned away.

I told the kids to follow me, and headed in. 2 staff people said the line was closed, and I countered with “the line is clearly shorter than ½ the hallway”; we briefly debated, a bit sharply at times, but they allowed us past. I apologized as we went by, for being a bit abrupt in my tone, but I said I’d been up since 3 a.m., and had 4 kids with me, and since we’d arrived at this event been asked to move somewhere else 5 times, so I was getting a bit punchy.

We reached the end of the line, and the staff guy at the end tried to turn us back. I am normally a shy person. A bit of a Fluttershy myself. Sometimes paralyzingly shy, but for my kids, I will be a lion. RAWR. He told us to leave, and I said “you told us to come back when the line was less than ½ the hallway long. And it is now. See?”  He disagreed, and I respectfully persisted. Finally he said he’d have to check with someone to see if it was okay to re-open the line. Perry, head of security,  came by just then, and cleared the line to open. Yay!

So we waited, and waited, and watched as other convention goers walked out of the gallery with their custom made fleece MLP hats, scarves, plushies, tee shirts, massive WeLoveFine swag bags, and buttons. Everyone had tons of buttons on, clipped to their shirts, hats, backpacks.

We finally are at the head of the line, and waiting for people to leave, so we can get in. A woman comes up with her 2 young daughters, and they let her in ahead of us. I said hey – how come she gets to get in before me? The staff person says, “people with kids first”. I point to my 10 year old daughter standing in front of me – “well, she’s a kid!” Oh well, then. I didn’t need to have stood in line, and we’d be the next ones allowed in anyways… I rolled my eyes in frustration – at the ridiculousness of the situation, and my own mistake of even standing in line.

Once in the Artist’s Gallery, there were so many things to look at! Booths lined the walls, and the room was filled with tables where people were selling pony goods. There were a small amount of retail MLP items, but mostly there were custom made items by DeviantArt artists. Most things were absolutely amazing; a very few I could have made myself.

Most things were way expensive, like plushies ($85 – $200+), figurines ($20 – $200+).

Mid-priced items included: fleece hats ($20 – $50), tee shirts ($20 – $35), custom artwork, posters.

There were a lot of things for less than $20, too: mouse pads ($15), prints ($10), custom sketches ($10), blind bags ($7), keychains ($5 – $7), postcards and buttons ($3/each or $10/4), along with MLP trading cards.

My boys had saved up plenty of cash, but I could see we were in trouble, as my girl only had $20 to spend.

Toxic Mario was super friendly, and signed 1 of the buttons my daughter bought.  A girl with a Mohawk selling exquisitely made figurines (the cheapest was $100) gave my daughter a season 2 poster for free. PixelKitties let my daughter, and a couple of other young girls, choose a free button.

Pinkie Pie – PixelKitties, Derpy Hooves – Toxic Mario

Carefully spending the last her money, my girl bought some stickers ($1 each) from Spittfire Art, and a Psychoshy print from semehammer.

But, we couldn’t leave just yet. I wanted to get one of the ginormous WeLoveFine steampunk Rainbow Dash sway bags for my son, so I bought her a Vinyl Scratch tee for $25 – the bag came with it, free.

Then, she turned to me and said “I can’t leave here without a plushie, Mom, I just can’t.” After promising me her Christmas money, she tried to get a Rainbow Dash but they were sold out, so she settled on an adorable FlutterShy. And I spent the cash I had brought to buy us dinner.

Oh well. Who needs to eat anyways…

My oldest son spent every dollar he brought on a Scootaloo hat ($35), a Vinyl scratch mousepad from Alexstrazsa ($15), and a Fluttershy plushie ($85). Son # 2 bought nothing. Son #3 bought a Rainbow Dash hat ($35), a Derpy Hooves mousepad ($15), and a crocheted wristband in Colgate’s colors – blue and white from Carousel Accessories ($1). He also got some attention – several people loved his custom Maplestory tee. (We all have made our own Maplestory and Legend of Zelda tees…)

Happy, but out of cash, we headed out. The Fighting is Magic tournament was scheduled to start at noon, and we didn’t want to be late. We stopped by the Canterlot Gardens Store and got our registration tickets, then made our way through the crowds to the game room. There were tons of people with cool looking custom made joystick pad controllers. And lots of people with laptops. Lots and lots of people, but no one person clearly in charge. Nobody knew what was going on, only that there was a delay.

Voice Actors panel

Leaving the room, there was a line forming. I asked what the line was for. Some people said it was for the VA panel, some people hoped it was for the VA panel, and some people didn’t know but were getting in line anyways.  So, we got in line. And we waited. Twice we were asked to press up closer to the wall.

I chatted with a staff person, and asked how the crowds were on Friday; she said there were 2,000 people there on Friday, and about the same today. Wowza.

After a while, I realized I was making a mistake again – I had a child, yet here I was waiting in line!

I grabbed my 10 year old and my 13 year old, and told the older boys and Dad to hold the spot in line. I wasn’t sure if they let in children with only 1 adult, or 1 adult per child, or the entire family together.  I headed toward the front of the line, kids in tow, only the find the line snaked around corner after corner after corner. Holy cow.

We had just reached to head of the line, when Security called “All kids, elderly, and handicapped enter NOW!” They pointed at us, and waved us in. “First 2 rows, ma’am.” I asked if it was limited to 1 adult per child, or if the whole family could enter, and he said “you can all go”. But, by then, the seats were filling, and I realized if I went back to grab my other boys, we would never get seats in the front. So, we headed in, and quickly grabbed rows on the outer edge of the second row. I didn’t want to get the best row 1 or 2 seats, as we had 2 little kids and 2 older kids, and I felt the closest seats should be for the littlest kids.

I thought about sending my 13 year old out to grab his brothers and Dad, but I was afraid to send him out into the huge crowd alone. And I couldn’t leave my 2 kids to hold 6 seats either. I tried to call them, but it was so noisy, they couldn’t hear what I was saying. It was crazy. Finally, when the room was over ½ full, they entered the room, and I waved them up to our seats. Phew.

We waited while the room was filled. Perry (aka PerryThePony), head of security (aka Captain of the Guard) kept us entertained by hosting a random Q and A himself.

The VA (voice actors) started to come in and sit at the head table on stage.

There was :

On the side stood writers Meghan McCarthy  and Amy Keating Rogers.

Andrew Francis came in last and took a seat at the far end of the table. It was decided it was only appropriate that Shining Armor should sit by Princess Cadance, so he moved down and sat next to Britt McKillip.

Then, we were informed that Tara Strong was running late. They joked around about it, and asked the audience to tweet #twoll to Tara. They wanted to prank her and said that when she came in, we were all to suddenly drop completely silent.

The VA’s bantered, and decided while we were waiting, we should do a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic theme song sing-a-long. It was epic, hearing all 2,000 of us singing together, then cheering.

Finally, security brought Tara in. It turns out Tara was late because she was getting into her cosplay Twilight Sparkle outfit! She looked amazing. We all were silent, while she stood there puzzling and puzzling. Finally, the crowd couldn’t take it anymore, and we all cheered and clapped. She said it was her 1st time cosplaying ever, and she challenged Andrea to cosplay Pinkie Pie or Fluttershy for the next convention.

Twililicious – Twilight Sparkle cosplaying as Tara Strong

The VA panel started, hosted by Final Draft from Everfree Radio (Everfree Radio did the live stream for the convention).

Andrea brought up an adorable 6 year old girl fan named Prudence, who was cosplayed as Rainbow Dash (complete with goggles), to sit with her.

I have to admit, I don’t know the VA’s and pony community people as well as my kids. Until they did their character voices, I had a hard time matching faces with characters.

The VA’s talked about how they got involved in MLP, which character they voiced, their character’s catch phrases, and their favorite scenes. They talked about the strangest lines they ever had,  and other non-MLP characters they had voiced. They spoke in their regular voices, but would often break into their character voices and the crowd would go wild. It was crazy and wonderful, hearing them banter back an forth. Insanely fun.

Andrew Francis would interject “That’s right…” onto the end of just about every conversation, and we would all crack up with laughter.

Then it was time for Q and A from the crowd. Rina Chan was one of the assistants, helping hand the fans a microphone.

Spike Firemane presented a gorgeous, handmade painted wood carving to  Tara Strong – for being Kiki’s, Grayson’s, and the bronies’ guardian angel.  A bald, massive, huge, big, burly, Harley rider man, in combat boots wearing a tac vest covered with My Little Pony FiM embroiderery. I bet nobody tells him MLP isn’t cool.

Tara Strong raises charity funds, and offers love and support for both kids – Kiki, is a 6 year old girl diagnosed with brain cancer in January 2011, and Grayson is a little boy who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor at 6 years old.

Then there was the guy, one of the last questions, who said Tara Strong’s character of Raven in Teen Titans, had inspired him. Tara said, in a sultry voice, maybe next time she could cosplay as Raven; the crowd cheered.  So overcome with emotion he was hardly able to speak, he said that one of Raven’s sayings helped him get through one of the toughest moments of his life, and he asked for a hug from Tara.  And Tara came down off stage, and embraced him. And we all cheered.

I have to say, Tara Strong was awesome. Not only did she cosplay as Twilight Sparkle, but she was so obviously a pro at voice acting, conventions, and interacting with fans. Easy going, confident, polite, friendly, witty, and gorgeous, she did her best to give back to the MLP:FiM fan community. It’s easy to see why they love her. I was slightly concerned for her personal safety as she interacted up close and personal with fans, as a celebrity in a crowded room, and was hoping there wouldn’t be any crazies or an “incident”. Which there wasn’t, of course.

The last question went to little Prudence, who asked for the VA to sing “the song that starts ‘when I was just a filly, I found it rather silly…’”  The VA’s looked at each other, and said, well the person who sings that isn’t here.  The crowd shouted “We can sing it!”  The VA’s asked the crowd if there was anyone there who knew the words to the song, and could sing it?

A gorgeous Princess Celestia cosplayer sitting on the floor in front of us jumped to her feet and volunteered. They handed her the mic, and she began to sing “B.B.B.F.F”, and the crowd joined in, in a gigantic sing-a-long.

Amazingly, Princess Celestia not only knew all the words, but had a beautiful singing voice.  And she didn’t blush, or turn red, or pass out, like I would surely have done, had it been me.

It was an inspiring feeling of togetherness.

My daughter turned to me, gave me a hug, then smiled and said, “Mom, this is the best day of my whole life!”

After the panel, we went back to the gaming room to check on the FiM tourney. Still seemed unorganized, still hadn’t started.

We watched for a bit, as players faced off, with the game showing on the huge movie screen.

We could never figure out what we were supposed to do, or when the tourney was going to start. The boys decided they didn’t want to sit around and wait for the tourney. They wanted to get the free poster, but we couldn’t even figure out where that was being given away.

Finally we decided to leave, but we stopped into the Canterlot Gardens Store area, and they told my daughter she could get a free autograph – whose would she like? She was super shy, and couldn’t say a word. They gave her a voucher for Tara Strong and Andrea Libman.

We couldn’t find any place in the hotel for all 6 of us to sit down, and it was getting rather warm and stuffy inside, so we headed out to the car to take a rest, have a snack, and drop off our swag.  We headed out through the crowd, past a bunch of fans singing “Winter Wrap Up.”

As we rested, we saw we weren’t the only ones doing this – several other people were tailgating and having lunch out of the backs of their cars, and several cosplayers were out adjusting their outfits and taking a break.

VA autographs

After our break, we headed back inside. There was a crowd of bronies and pony fans outside.  On the left of the entrance was a large group of cosplayers posing for photos.  On the right side were a group of fans singing songs from the show.

According to the Canterlot Gardens events schedule, the following VA’s would be there signing autographs: Andrea Libman, Britt McKillip, Cathy Weseluck, Lee Tockar, Grey DeLisle, John DiMaggio, Michelle Creber, Peter New, Meghan McCarthy, Amy Rogers, D.C. Douglas, Cristina Vee, Quinton Flynn, Jennifer Hale, Grey DeLisle, Tara Strong, and Andrew Francis.

My girl and I made our way towards the VA signing room, while the boys went to check on the FiM tournament. Again.

The line for autographs was long. Really long. The whole time we were there, it stretched through the lobby, around the hall, back by the sign-in desk, and down another hall. People were politely complaining they had waited for hours. 2 ½ hours. And they still hadn’t gotten in yet. Autograph time slots ended for the day at 7:30, and they were upset and worried that time would run out before they’d get a chance to even get in there.  It was $10 to $20 for each voucher for each VA, and some people had several vouchers each.

I hesitated. I didn’t want anyone yelling at me and my girl because security would let us in ahead of them, even though they’d waited for hours. I waited for a lull, then approached one 1 of the 3 staff members. He turned, smiled at my daughter, checked her vouchers, then waved her right in.

No one complained at all. As a matter of fact, everyone treated the kids there like VIPs. My daughter greatly enjoyed it, and felt like a little princess.

We entered the VA autograph room, and had to wait in another, shorter line. Tara and Andrea were both on the right, so luckily we only had to wait in 1 line.  The other VA’s were on the other side of the smallish room. The room was lined on both sides by narrow tables, with the VA’s seated behind them. At the other side of the room, near the exit door, sat 2 armed police men. There were also several security people in the room. The VA’s were busy signing, chatting with each fan, and getting their pictures taken.

As we stood in line, I realized we had put everything in the van and we didn’t have anything for them to sign! Nothing! Each VA had photos or prints you could purchase for $10 and they would sign. Tara also had pony notebooks, highlighters, and other items you could buy for charity that she would sign . But, my girl had spent all her money, and I had even spent our dinner cash! I was thinking in a panic, “What to do?”

The girl in line ahead of us, turned around, and smiled. She tore out a page of her autograph book, and gave the sheet of paper to my daughter. “Here you go.” I thanked her profusely. She smiled again, and said, “It’s all in the spirit of things. “ I was starting to love these pony fans.

Tara signed my daughter’s paper. She looked amazing. She was cosplayed as Twilight Sparkle, with a purple and pink wig, a unicorn horn, a purple dress, leg warmers, and the most amazing sparkles on her eyelids. My shy daughter couldn’t say a word, and whispered “Thank you”. Or at least, I hope she did.

Andrea asked my daughter what her name was, so she could autograph it for her.  She quietly said her name, then watched in awe as the voice of Pinkie Pie and Shutterfly signed her paper.

We left the room, clutching the paper tightly. For the second time today, she said “Mom, this is the best day of my whole life.”

Fighting is Magic Tourney

We had our autographs, so we headed into the game room. It turns out the tournament had started. My boys still had no idea what was going on, and had no idea what they were supposed to do, but they said not to worry about it. If they didn’t play, it would be okay. 1 of them was starting to feel sick, and getting a sore throat. Even though it was only around 4:30, at this point, they had been up over 13 hours.

We watched the players take their turns. The Fighting is Magic game, even though it’s a pre-alpha version, was impressive. FiM is kind of like Soul Calibur, but with ponies. Each pony had several different attacks they could use, each related to a character strength or skill. For example, Twilight attacks with her unicorn horn, Applejack kicks with her rear legs, Rainbow Dash has a dash attack. We watched a few matches, and it became apparent that a kid named Andrew was pretty lethal with Applejack.

The boys were okay with not playing in the tourney, but still wanted their “free poster” that they were supposed to get. There were no posters to be seen, and so they left. By the time my daughter and I, who were trailing behind, could get through the crowd to leave, a woman came in with a box and said line up to get your poster.  I couldn’t get the poster, as I didn’t have the voucher slip, so I hurried as much as I could, caught up to my boys, and brought them back to get in line for the poster. When we finally got to the posters, the boys were surprised to see they were just the season 2 posters that they already have, but they each got one anyway, to give to their sister. My girl didn’t have a game voucher, so she stood to the side. The security woman smiled at her, and told her to pick any poster she’d like anyways! Win! She was so happy.

It was time to take a break, and my kids were tired of the PB&J sandwiches, granola bars, and grapes I had packed. (Picky, picky.) So we headed out to check in at our hotel. The Holiday Inn was booked, so we had reserved 2 rooms at what turned out to be a nice hotel 3 miles up Route 71. Then, because Dad had gotten up at 3 a.m. and driven for 7 hours, we let him pick dinner out, instead of more PB&J.  He picked Red Lobster, of course.

After dinner, we headed across Route 71 back to the Holiday Inn. It was getting darker, and the parking lot was a little less crowded. There were still groups of cosplayers outside posing and getting their photos taken, and a bunch of people just standing around. I would say a little less than ½ the people who came were full-on cosplayers.

All 3 cosplay photos are from Rolling Stone

There was a group singing MLP:FiM songs just inside the doors.  Kakashi walked by. And Strawberry Shortcake.  A long haired guy dressed as a blue-sequined mermaid.

It was way less crowded at 7 p.m.  We headed to the Artist’s Gallery, with no line to get in. PixelKitties walked by. She’s rather tall, with dark hair in high pigtails, funky black glasses, a tight black dress and heels, and a big smile.

Son #2 finally bought 1 thing. A Big Macintosh tee from WeLoveFine.

Son #3 bought a Fluttershy tee with the “You’re going to love me!” face, but instead the text said “Fus Ro Dah”. He said it was cool. And something about Skyrim. He’s a bit of a closet brony, but he said his friends would understand this shirt.

WeLoveFine was selling 1 tee for $25, with swag bag, 2 tees for $40, with 1 swag bag. I needed 2 tees and 2 swag bags, so I paid $50 for 2 tees. Note: when you have 4 kids, it’s best to have 4 swag bags, and keep everyone happy.

Son #3 decided he wanted to get some autographs with his leftover cash, but they were done for the day, so no go. Oh well.

Son #1 was feeling sicker by the moment. We needed a place to sit down. For all 6 of us. We found a spot where the 4 kids could sit in the Lounge, but after a couple minutes, some fans started playing music rather loud. Which was fine, but we just wanted a quieter spot. So, we headed to the game room again, to see how the tourney was going and see if we could score a spot to sit.

There was some room on the floor by the big screen, with around 15 other fans sitting there, so we put all 4 kids next to each other on the floor.  From 8 to 9 p.m. they were clearing all the chairs from the main hall for the big Pony Musician Showcase at 9 p.m.  There were only 2 things we had really wanted to see – and this was 1 of them. We had an hour to kill, and my feet were dying, so I finally sat down with the kids.

One of the bronies sitting next to my kids was drawing in a sketchbook. All day, all over the convention we had seen artists sketching – in the Artist’s gallery, in the lounge, hanging out in chairs, and now here, in the gaming room. My daughter pulled out her sketchbook, too, and I could see the 2 of them conversing quietly, and comparing notes while they drew ponies together. My girl and a total stranger. #adorable and #unexpected.

After a while I was wondering what time it was, and the brony sitting next to me checked his watch, smiled, and said 8:11.  Cool. Thanks. Wow, these bronies were all so… nice.

We watched the tourney, and then the final 8 started playing.  Andrew, who my son says does the music for Legends of Equestria, was kicking butt with Applejack; he was playing very offensively, and hardly giving the other players a chance to attack. (My son tells me that in the end, Andrew won the tournament! Yay Hirosashii!)

Pony Musician Showcase

We could hear them setting up for the Pony Musician Showcase in the main room, and the sound checks going on. Finally, at a little before 9, we headed out to the main room.  They were still setting up, and there was another group of fans singing by the entrance.

We waited for a while, then decided we might as well stand in line, as long as we were standing around. It was much less crowded than before. My son was feeling ill, but he’s a big YouTube fan of Forest Rain, who was supposed to be a guest, and he really wanted to see him.

At 9:15 they started letting people in. A band was now set up on stage, with colored lights, and the overhead lights on that side of the room were turned down low. (I’m not sure who the band was – my son thinks it was Pony-Wan Kenobi?) They were still live streaming. The band started to play, and more and more people streamed in. (Update: The band was Poni1Kenobi a.k.a. Dylan Smith – who is awesome! Check out one of my favorite songs of theirs – Melody on My Heartstrings.)

I was impressed. The music was good, and not deafeningly loud. I could talk in a normal voice. The crowd was dancing, jumping, and swaying to the music. They played song after song. The crowd formed a giant circle, then closed the circle all leaping together. The next song they formed a gigantic conga line. It was huge. Everyone was smiling, and having fun.

When they announced Forest Rain would be unable to perform tonight, my son was so disappointed. At this point he was feeling pretty ill, so he said “Let’s just go back to the hotel, and I’ll watch the live stream”. But then they started playing another song, “Great to be Different” – a Forest Rain song – so we stayed just a bit longer.  Turns out Forest Rain had trouble crossing the border from Canada and entering into the U.S. He was finally allowed in, but was barred from performing. Weird, eh?

When they played “Great to be Different”, we all swayed together, slowly waving our hands over our heads, back and forth. I think that could be the theme song of bronies. Seriously.

Isn’t it great to be different?

Isn’t it great to be exactly who you are?

What is the magic of Lauren Faust’s  My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? There are 6 mane, or main, ponies, but there are so many different ponies, fans can always find 1 to identify with. There are so many ponies, they are all so different, yet they all get along.

And then there’s the writing!

“The writing, the voice acting, and the artwork are all genuinely witty, and everything is handled with a certain deft panache. Without being in any way hard or cynical, much less descending into mere self-parody, beneath the surface the underlying sensibilities are actually rather grown-up. There’s a definite feel of adults at play here, of a show created by people who genuinely had a lot of fun in making. Both the show itself and the individual characters are all utterly fantastic.” – Hakiro12

And there’s the music! Here’s a comment from BBBFF:

“I’m currently serving in Afghanistan. One day, I was able to check my email and see that my little sister sent me a link to this and I was reduced to tears. Because of this, I am now a proud Brony serving in the Marines and more importantly, someone’s BBBFF. I miss you, Katelynn. Your BBBFF will be home soon. I promise.” – MaximusOverbite

The pony community is made up of mostly bronies, but there are also a lot of female fans, and kid fans.

There is a huge artist following for MLP:FiM – both digital and traditional artists (check Deviant Art) and musical artists (check YouTube).  Creating not just fan art, but original art based off of MLP:FiM.

The spirit of ponies… and bronies

This was our first convention we’ve gone to as a family.

Overall, I was impressed. We were treated well and felt welcome.  People were friendly, helpful, respectful, and kind. My kids all had a wonderful time. My boys fit right in with all the other young guys there, wearing pony hats and loving the MLP music. My daughter felt like a princess.

Many times we had no idea what was going on, or what this particular line was for, or needed directions. Many times I walked up to people who were complete strangers and asked for assistance, and every single time I was helpfully answered. Not once did any brony give me a look, or a hard time.  They were even high-fiving my husband.

Accepting of anyone.  Creativity, kindness, tolerance, and friendship. It’s all in the spirit of ponies.

As we were driving home, marveling at the Canterlot Gardens experience. My husband said, “This is must it must have felt like at Woodstock.”

To be with a group of people who accept you, for exactly who you are.

“It’s great to be different” – Love, Derpy.

Goodbye Cleveland…

For more info, check out my previous review of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Haven’t seen the show yet? What are you waiting for!

Photos: For the source for each photo (other than my own photos), click on it, and you’ll be directed to the link.

Did you get to go to Canterlot Gardens? What did you think? Leave a link to your write up of the convention in the comments.

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15 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    pixelkitties said,

    I’m so happy you and your children were able to make it to the convention and had a good time. I’m sorry to hear about the troubles making your way into the vendor hall, but it was wonderful to meet you there, even briefly!

    I have a few posters and buttons left over from the convention, and if your kids would like an extra care package of con goodies I would be very very happy to send some along. Just let me know!

    Again, thanks SO MUCH for stopping by my table! I’m glad you all had a great time and safe travels home!

    • 2

      llww said,

      PixelKitties!
      Why thank you! My kids had a great time at Canterlot Gardens thanks to the kindness, generosity, and friendliness of people like you.
      It was a little tough getting in to the Artist’s Gallery, but the staff was just doing their job, and it was crowded. And, it was so inspiring and such a priviledge to even get to be in the same room with all you amazing DeviantArt artists. It was hard to get to your table, as everyone wanted to see your awesome artwork and pony loot!
      That was so kind of you to offer my girl a free button.
      I asked the kids if they’d like a care package of con goodies from PixelKitties and they all yelled “YEAH!!!” with big smiles.
      I will send you an email with our mailing address. Thank you so much! 🙂

  2. 3

    Ed "Firemane" Goodwin said,

    The person who was the moderator asking the questions is Final Draft from Everfree Radio! Also they are combat boots, tac vest Greyson is the other child I mentioned when I handed Tara the carving!

    • 4

      llww said,

      Thanks for the corrections, Mr. Firemane, sir! I’ve updated the post.
      Your presentation of your angel wood carving to Tara was very touching. While you were speaking, my daughter looked at me and said, “Mom, why are you crying?” I replied, “Because cancer is a sad thing, and little kids with cancer is a very, very sad thing.”
      My girl’s uncle (my brother) has stage 4 thymic cancer, and although he’s still fighting, his journey could end any day now.
      The fact that cancer can still take such beautiful souls from us, is sad.

      • 5

        Ed "FIremane" Goodwin IV said,

        They aren’t gone yet! Have faith! Kiki, Grayson and your brother should never give up hope, once you do that’s when it will take over fully! Never under ANY circumstance give it the strength it needs to fully take over! That is why Tara recieved the carving! She is a beacon of strength to Kiki and Grayson and hopefully let your brother know to draw strength from us bronies we are how should I put this, A legion of combined strength that those who are in need can draw from! Trust me when I say this if I can take the cancer from Kiki and Grayson and put it into me instead I would in a heartbeat! I am strong enough both physically and spiritually to fight this and let them have a childhood without worries! I lost my grandfather, my namesake I am Edward William Goodwin IV so the 2nd (he hated being called Jr) from skin cancer! I vowed that from that day forward if those on chemo go bald because of the treatment I don’t deserve to have hair! This is to show support that “if you do have hair because of this well I don’t deserve it!”

      • 6

        llww said,

        Thank you for your kind words. You’re so right – even if everything else is taken away, cancer can’t take away your hope.
        It’s awesome how bronies support Tara, and Kiki, and Grayson. Support is so necessary when fighting cancer, for everyone involved.
        I think the hardest thing is to know someone you care about is suffering, and to feel so helpless.
        Thanks for all you do, Firemane!

  3. 7

    Bloomberg said,

    Wow, this is a really impressive review! Thanks for taking the time to put this together. Sorry you didn’t get a chance to see our panel, but thanks for the mention anyway! You really know your stuff.

    • 8

      llww said,

      We may have missed seeing the panel, but we played the game during the stress test before and after the convention. The graphics and Sugarcube Corner were awesome 😀

  4. 9

    I can’t believe I haven’t seen this before now! I’m really sorry I wasn’t able to perform, but if you could send me an email (forestrain@derpymail.org), or add me on Skype (ForestRainMedia), I would love to send your son a CD~

    • 10

      llww said,

      OMG!!! My son, and the other kids, would be thrilled to get a CD! We’ll send you an email really soon. Thank you, so very much! We know you did everything within your power to try to perform. Darn those US Customs folks… Just doing their job, but it really doesn’t make any sense they wouldn’t let you perform in the US.

  5. 11

    DeftFunk said,

    I know this is super late and stuff, but It’s cool to hear that you guys has mostly a good time. Sure looked pretty neat from the outside.

    I didn’t go, but I had overheard that there was drama of some sort here, and I was browsing write-ups to compare it to the absolute disaster that was Las Pegasus Unicon.

    • 12

      Bloomberg said,

      Well, the drama involved mostly took place before the actual event, and a lot of it was stirred up intentionally by a few people who weren’t on very good terms with the staff of the convention. By the time it had started up, everything had been dealt with and the guests were able to enjoy themselves without having to worry, or in many cases even know, about any behind-the-scenes drama. I can’t speak for everyone there, of course, but everyone that I talked to agreed that Canterlot Gardens was the most well put-together and fun out of any convention we had attended to date, and everything went very smoothly overall. It is certainly not something I would even begin to compare to Unicon.

    • 13

      llww said,

      We had an awesome time at Canterlot Gardens, our first pony convention! The only drama I was aware of was there was some concern that they were overbooking the relatively small venue, and it would be insanely crowded. We went anyways, with crossed fingers, because the Canterlot Gardens staff sold only a limited number of tickets online and then were going to sell any extra at the door. By the time we arrived, they were sold out. No ticket, no entry. So, it was crowded, but in a good way – not out of control. And there was mucho security and staff on hand.

      I am sorry to hear about the problems at Las Pegasus Unicon, according to this writeup at DerpyHoovesNews. It is a difficult thing, and a big responsibility, to host a pony con. It’s important the the guest/VIPs and the con attendees are safe and are able to have a good time. I hope that future con-hosters plan better – “hope for the best, and plan for the worst” – and that things work out for those impacted by Unicon.

  6. 14

    […] official! Based on the fun time we had at Canterlot Gardens, our family has voted for this year’s family vacation to be going to BronyCon 2013 in Baltimore, […]

  7. 15

    […] all wanted to go to BronyCon. This would be our second My Little Pony convention. Our first was Canterlot Gardens 2012, which was amazing and […]


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