If there’s one thing Bronies know how to do, it’s how to have FUN! The biggest MLP convention in the world, BronyCon 2014 is coming up on August 1 – 3 in Baltimore. While we won’t be going this year, I can give you a clue about what it will be like, and tell you about our adventures attending BronyCon 2013.
A 3 day con about everything MLP. BronyCon invites you to:
“Spend a fun-filled weekend with fans of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” from across the world. With panels, concerts, special guests and much more, you’re sure to go home with some new friends!”
Wish we could be there!
Last summer, I asked our 4 kids where they wanted to go for our annual vacation – the beach? the city? Disney World? They 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 fun.
BronyCon 2013 was on August 1-3 in Baltimore, Maryland. Over 8,000 people went. A celebration of art, music, creativity, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, it was wonderful.
We started packing and planning for the con – what to bring to the convention center; what and when would we eat; what to attend; what to buy; what to do.
Passes: as soon as we decided to go, we started keeping an eye on the BronyCon website. We bought our passes in November, to get the discounted rates of Early-Bird Three Day Pass for $65, and 13 and under Three Day Pass for $40.
Our hotel plan: we would need 5 days, including driving there and back, and so we reserved 2 rooms (each with 2 double beds) for 4 nights at the Baltimore Hilton, which is connected by the Skybridge to the Baltimore Convention Center. We saved money by making reservations using the BronyCon block rate, which was $125/night per room, as soon as it was opened (many months prior). There’s also $20/night per room in taxes, and we had to pay $112 to park our car in the hotel’s underground parking garage for 4 nights. I loved the Skybridge idea, as we could get from our hotel to the convention center without have to walk on the streets, and it was air conditioned. Some of the music events ended at 1 or 2 in the morning, and we had kids, so it was a huge plus for us.
Our food plan: eat only 2 meals a day to save money. We would use Chocolate Pony-BaltimoreBrony’s most excellent guide (@Coco_Pony) to Baltimore to find places to eat.
Our convention center plan: each kid carries a light string bag with a water bottle (which we would refill as needed using water fountains), mom and dad share a big backpack, with snacks, extra water bottles, a BronyCon program booklet, wallet/money, bandaids, gum, kleenex, phone, phone charger, meds, earplugs, and Purell. Also, pack for my daughter: iPad, sketchbook, pencils/inking pen, and sarong (in case it gets chilly).
What to do: BronyCon has a lot to offer, so we had to prioritize. We would pick a few panels that were a “must go to” (the voice actor panels), visit the vendor hall, and go to both nights of Bronypalooza. Then we would fill with whatever worked out.
Thursday – The day before
We arrived in Baltimore in the evening, found the Hilton hotel, and parked our car in the hotel’s underground parking garage. Got in a short line to get our hotel keys. Then we headed up to our 2 rooms, and worked out who would sleep in which room. We couldn’t agree, so we decided Mom would take the first room, overlooking the baseball stadium, and Dad would take the second room, overlooking the city and convention center, and the kids would play musical beds each night. We brought with us 2 huge water bottle packs (stuffed into a wheeled suitcase) and 2 small coolers – 1 for each room – so we could get ice from the hotel and keep our water cold. No paying $4/bottle of water for us.
The Hilton offered free wi-fi in the lobby, and 1/2 price wi-fi in your room for BronyCon attendees ($6/day, instead of $12).
We were starving, and headed across the street to a Subway restaurant.
We got in a rather long line, and my son starts poking me and whispering. “What?! What?!”, I say. He tells me all the famous brony musician guys are in line ahead of us. OmniPony. F3nning. SilvaHound.
Oh really? I take a look, and there’s a bunch of teenage guys, some with colored hair, waiting patiently in line. I tell him to say Hi, but he’s too shy, and it wouldn’t be cool. Oooookay. We notice someone’s expensive retainer/dental appliance on the floor. The musicians notice it too. I wonder what they will do. Smash it? Ignore it? To my surprise, 1 of them grabs a napkin, and picks it up, and places it up to a safe place. Wow. How responsible. #nice
Heading back to our room, the hotel lobby is buzzing with excitement and cosplayers and ponies. We notice a lot of people getting in line. We ask around and the line is to register and pick up badges. It was supposed to open at 8 pm, but they opened early at 6 pm. We happened to have our printed registration passes on us, so we immediately got in The Line. It was a long line. A really, really long line, to get into the registration room. And then, when we finally reach the end, and we’re released to go in the room, there’s ANOTHER line inside the room! It took us over 3 hours to register, and get our badges and swag bag.
Youth badges are a different color than regular admission badges, and they put the name of the parent/guardian on the back of the youth’s badge.
Then we head up to our rooms and get to bed.
Friday 8/2 – Day 1:
We woke up raring to go. We put on our pony shirts, and pony hats, and packed our bags.
We needed breakfast, so we crossed the street to Subway and bought some breakfast flatbreads. We were running late, so we packed them in our backpack and headed over to the convention center for opening ceremonies.
The Baltimore Convention Center is huge, and spacious. Security was tight, which was great. No alcohol or smoking is allowed inside, even at the music events. Cosplayers were everywhere, and there were so many people!
We walked around to get a feel for where the main con rooms were, and where the bathrooms were. The kids loved the escalators.
We got in line for opening ceremonies. A long line. But, we were all so excited – who cares!
Standing in line was fun. As we wove our way back in forth through the ropes, we would knuckle bump with all the people passing us going the other way. Sort of like a high five, but a knuckle bump.
There were so many people! Lots of guys, lots of girls, a good number of kids, but mostly adults; lots of cosplayers, lots of geeks/nerds. Lots of smiles, lots of singing, lots of chanting, lots of knucklebumps.
The first panel we went to was the Voice Actor Panel. It was a long line to get in, and we had to wait a while for the entire line of people to come in and get seated. If you can only make it to 1 panel, make it the VA panel. Hosted by Final Draft (Everfree Network) guests were: Lee Tockar (Snips), Nicole Oliver (Princess Celestia, Cheerilee), Cathy Weseluck (Spike, Mayor Mare), Brenda Crichlow (Zecora), Maddy Peters (Scootaloo), and Michelle Creber (Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle-singing).
The rules were kids get to be 1st in the lines to ask the voice actors questions, which was good. Everfree Radio livestreams the panels, and you can watch them later on YouTube.
The next panel we went to was Friendship is Witchcraft, where they premiered their latest video. Basically, the Friendship is Witchcraft crew takes a MLP:FiM episode visuals and makes a parody out of it – changing the words and music. The result can be creative, snarky, funny, and/or mildly offensive.
Next up was a “must go to” – Brony musicians panel. Hosted by F3nning, guests were: DJ Tetsuo, Omnipony, General Mumble, Living Tombstone, Alex S., Silva Hound, Wooden Toaster/Glaze, Black Gryph0n, and Mic the Microphone. Brony music is one of the main things we enjoy about the MLP:FiM fandom, both the mashups and the original songs; also, all of these talented musicians also create non-pony music.
We went to a seating area in the convention center, and ate our Subway breakfasts.
Sometimes it was hard to tell what line was for what, and sometimes is was hard to tell where the end of the line was. But, all you have to do is just ask someone standing in line, “Hey! What are you in line for?” Sometimes, I’d get a happy answer of “I don’t really know!”, lol.
Next we check out the Game Room – an entire room set up with video games you can play with other fans. When you walk in, the room is dark, but don’t let that throw you. They have huge screens set up all around the perimeter of the room, and gaming stations set up where you can sit and play, or you can just watch other people play. My boys loved playing Super Smash Bros Melee.
Our favorite thing was pony-style Rock Band! They had a massive screen set up, with speakers, and all the Rock Band equipment – microphone, guitar, drumset. And in addition to the regular Rock Band songs, they had customized the song list and added songs from the My Little Pony show and fan made songs! A+++ Not only could you get in line to play or sing, but crowds would gather to watch and sing along.
We checked our map, and made our way down to the Vendor Hall, which was amazingly amazing. And crowded. There were so many vendors! We walked through the hall slowly, weaving back and forth in the crowd, and keeping track of the kids. The kids spent all their cash and wee bought posters, pillows, plushies, stickers, tote bags. So many things to see!
They had a snack bar in the vendor hall, and also one up on the main level, so you CAN get eats there, and the prices were reasonable.
There are soda machines in the convention center, and everyday you can get cold drinks outside the center for cheap. Which is great, because the water fountains in the convention center are very difficult to find.
The “Ice cold wateh – 1 dollah!!!” guy was there every day, just outside the front doors. He became quite the meme, and they even made a song about him:
We headed down to the harbor and to find some dinner.
We followed DJpon3 and his huge speaker on wheels from the convention center, down to the inner harbor. We past this 20+, black dude, sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus. As we walked by with a bunch of bronies and a speaker wagon, music blasting, he jumped up and said “Aw, none of you are gonna dance?! It’s the Harlem Shake, man! Well, somebody gotta do it!” Then, he got up and danced while we all hung out on the corner, waiting for the light to change. #lovingBaltimore
Used BaltimoreBrony’s map to find 5 Guys Burgers. We were lucky to find a small table to sit where we could cram all 6 of us in. Ate our burgers and some of the fries. Walked back up the slight hill to the hotel. Lots of bronies everywhere.
Next up was the first night of BronyPalooza! We were super excited, as this was 1 of the main reasons we had come. It was held in the top floor ballroom, where the larger panels had been held. The chairs were all cleared out, except for the ones lining the edge of the room. The stage still had the huge screens set up, and the speaker stacks were… many. Too many.
The music started, and it was too loud. The mega bass reverberated through your chest and was uncomfortable. The floor was shaking, with all the people dancing. The music was great, but the mixing was off, and it was too, too loud. We ended up sitting outside the room, on a bench by the windows. Gradually more and more people came out. Some of them sat against the walls, some laid on the floor, some sat on the benches. Everyone I talked to agreed the music was too loud. #disappointing
I left dad and the older boys, and I headed back to the hotel and asked at the front desk for a few sets of earplugs. I was grateful when they provided us with 4 pairs of orange foam earplugs, free of charge.
Headed back, and gave the kids the ear plugs. It was still too loud. But, sitting just outside, it was enjoyable. Although we had a great view, we still wanted to be in with the crowd and the bands and the DJs and the laser light shows.
Pretty soon, they started asking people not to jump. Then, not to dance or move their feet. The whole building was shaking. Later they said it registered a 1.6 on the Richter scale. #seriously
Around midnight, we all head back to the hotel early.
Saturday 8/3 – Day 2:
Got up and got breakfast at Subway again, to pack and bring.
Headed to the Vendor Hall, hoping they had restocked on some of the things that were sold out on Friday. My 13 year old son was able to get 1 of the last huge swords from a vendor (‘Ponyville Up At Da Ranchi’’).
Where ARE the water fountains in the convention center?!
Got in line for the second voice actors panel.
Afterwards went to the pony drawing panel, which was in a small room, and WAY to crowded. My daughter was disappointed. Sat on the floor in the back, and couldn’t see anything.
Then went to Whose Line is it Anypony, which is a parody of Whose Line is it Anyway. Super funny! Although some of the jokes were borderline inappropriate for an 11 year old. Keep it clean, people, please. For the kids.
We next visited the Game Room, and spent a couple hours playing Ponified Rock Band and SSBM. The kids made some new friends.
By now, our knuckles are red from knuckle bumping. Must. Carry. On.
The convention center is filled with energy. Groups of people galloping by, screaming “FUN! FUN! FUN!” (from the Too Many Pinkies episode). Strains of “Pink Fluffy Unicorns, Dancing With Rainbows!” breaks out frequently. Cosplayers are posing for photos. Scattered around are musicians playing their instruments. I walk by a guy playing a really good “Legend of Zelda” on an ocarina. Fans are gathering and dancing in the wide open hallways of the convention center.
It’s time to eat again. We walk down to the harbor to get dinner. On the way, an Orioles fan, 20+, white, passes by, looks at my 15 yo son – who is wearing an MLP shirt – and screams “What is this shit!” right in his face. He is raging and waving his fists as he passed us on the street. Way to leave an impression, Baltimore. Jeez.
We head to the M&S grill. It rains. It costs $13 for a 3 inch diameter, 1 inch tall crabby patty. Yikes. We walk and sightsee around the inner harbor.
Meh. Not such a great night.
We head back to the convention center for the second night of BronyPalooza. Half of the speakers are gone. The mixing is perfect. The volume is… perfect. Thank heavens. The second night is Epic. We all dance and sit and listen. I take my girl back to our room at midnight, and my guys all stay until the very end at 2 a.m.
My girl has saved me twice now – I dropped my hotel key (stuck to back of my rubberized phone cover, and fell out onto the floor when I took my phone out of my pocket.) and set my glasses down on the dance floor, in the dark, when we were taking a break, then couldn’t see where they were, and almost forgot and left without them!
Sunday – Day 3:
We are all too tired to get breakfast.
We head over to the convention center, and look at our options.
We decide to go to the Bronies React panel. Again, some of it is a bit too mature for an 11 year old. I know there’s a lot of teens and young adults you need to entertain, but keep it G rated for the kids, bronies.
Then we get in line for the charity auction. ChaoticBrony’s gorgeous Celestia rhinestone pendant sells for $750. Spike Firemane donated some of his beautiful custom made wood carvings. Lee Tockar and M.A. Larson were there. The auction raises over $20K.
We visited the Artist Gallery room and see some amazing artwork and plushies.
Time to get in line for the closing ceremony – a long, long, human snake line; so long, had to get in line downstairs to get to the line upstairs. They tell us the final stats: 8,407 bronies attended. BronyPalooza night 1 was 1.6 on Richter scale.
It ends at 5, and everyone starts to clear out. We feel a little lost. Like graduating high school, we have all gone our separate ways.
We have dinner upstairs at Chicago Uno Pizza. It is crowded and noisy and we order too much pizza.
After dinner we walk around the inner harbor, which has restaurants, tourist shops, and parks.
Time for bed, and the lights from the Orioles ballpark are so bright they poke through around the edges of our room’s dark curtains.
Time to sleep.
Monday morning we all shower and hit the road early. In the parking garage we find dirty words scrawled in the dust on our car’s back window.
We start the long drive home. In Pennsylvania, we stop in a McDonalds to let the kids use the restrooms. There was a guy in the Womens restroom. So glad I went in with my 11 year old girl. Now THAT is #creepy.
Our favorite things about BronyCon 2013?
- So much impromptu, spontaneous fun.
- The panels.
- The energy and vibe and talent and passion of the brony fans crowd.
- Random mobs of Pinkie Pies – “Fun! Fun! Fun!”
- Gameroom with the customized MLP Rock Band – with songs from the shows, along with fanmade songs.
- Amazing music at BronyPalooza.
- Laser show by laserpon3
- Brohoofing complete strangers.
- Smiling at complete strangers, as we passed each other in our huge lines. Like a big human snake, weaving back and forth between the stanchions.
- Silva Hound’s Saturday night set at BronyPalooza
- Interestingly, many people at BronyCon had a Nintendo DSiXL / 3DS. Most were playing Pokemon or Animal Crossing 3DS. We ended up buying 3DSs for all the kids within a month.
- The Bronycon 2013 staff did a great job setting up a huge convention with lots of fun things to do, in a great location.
What could have been better at BronyCon?
- More singing together songs from the show (while waiting for panels; officially led, with mics).
- They could have set up a couple of designated dance locations, along with the spontaneous ones.
- Better moderators at the panels for audience questions. Make it a rule: no stupid questions to ask a panel – only good, relevant ones (not ‘stupidest question’ competition, for example: “Who would win Ditto vs. Changling?” or “May i touch your buttocks?”) And don’t ask the same question that was asked 5 minutes previously.
- The registration and badge pickup line was so long. They were all working to get us through, but I wonder if it could have been done differently, to not take over 3 hours? Or, maybe that’s not possible…
- It would have been nice to feel more welcome in Baltimore.
How much did it cost us to go to BronyCon 2013?
- $340 for 3 day passes for the 6 of us (4 adults, 2 13 and under)
- $1156 for 2 hotel rooms for 4 nights ($125/night BronyCon block rate at the Hilton, + taxes)
- $112 parking (Hilton underground parking garage, 1 car, 4 nights)
- $80 gas
- $540 food (for 6 people, for 5 days)
Grand total: around $2,300, not including what we spent in the Vendor Hall for pony swag.
What’s a Brony?
Being a brony means you are part of a group where being different is ok. It’s all about tolerance, and acceptance; no being rude, dissing, putting people down, or bullying. It’s about having FUN! FUN! FUN!
It’s about creativity – fanart, fan made videos and music, and fanfics.
It means it’s okay to be yourself.
The media portrayal of bronies is a bit disappointing. The majority portray bronies as “weird, grown up men”, and imply something is wrong with them to like a pastel pony cartoon show targeted at little girls. In the beginning the term “brony” may have meant male teens and adults, but now, bronies are male and female, and include fans of all ages.
Like any community, the MLP fandom has it’s underbelly of creative inappropriateness. There are a small amount of people who portray ponies with extra body parts, doing pornographic things. And there are people who have twisted the ponies into the horror genre.
My daughter accidentally runs into this type of MLP stuff on YouTube and Google Images occasionally. It’s a little disconcerting.
But, every fandom does it. And rather than get our knickers knotted over it, or try to stop it – which would be impossible – we just don’t consume or promote it.
And, the fandom is not without its own internal drama…
A highly detailed survey of the Brony subculture from 2012 gives some stats about bronies:
Average age: 19
Most are from USA, UK, Canada, Australia
86% are male
84% are white
3% are homosexual
78% are not in a relationship; of those in a relationship, 85% are in a heterosexual M/F relationship
Are also fans of anime, Dr. Who, Pokémon, Portal, and Team Fortress 2
There’s a couple of documentaries about bronies, if you want to know more about them.
First is Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (formerly titled as BronyCon: The Documentary), from 2012, which explains how bronies are:
“fans of the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and adopt the show’s themes of kindness, loyalty, generosity, honesty, laughter, friendship, and personal responsibility.”
A new documentary was just released on 7/8/2014, titled A Brony Tale. It stars Ashleigh Ball, the voice actor of Rainbow Dash and Apple Jack. Christopher Campbell of Movies.com, says in his review:
“They’re compared to the jazz crowd of the 1920s and to the Beatniks and, most assuredly, to the hippies . . . Hodge comes closer to making those of us who can’t possibly get it at least start to comprehend what is really going on here and why. If we all joined them in not necessarily watching and playing with and dressing up as My Little Pony but at least in following its message and influence, then the planet would be a much better place.”
Take it with a grain of salt, though, as OMGitsDSypl says in the comments on YouTube:
“0:10 already the documentary has lost credibility. Bronies are not defined by age group or gender, or even just about being obsessed about MLP. A girl could classify herself as a brony yet only watch the episodes on tv.”
What can you expect at BronyCon? Be prepared to give, and get, a whole lot of:
Why BronyCon? Because… ponies!
Make a choice
Did you go to BronyCon 2013? What was your experience like? Are you going to BronyCon 2014?