I returned home from Seattle exactly a week ago and I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around the whole experience. I had never been to a typical convention before, just the MY LITTLE PONY Fair (which I now realize is a far cry from a typical convention) and I had never experienced a "Brony" event.
Mary and I set up our booth on Friday. It was pretty simple with some Fair info, merchandise and books. At the last minute, I threw in some "unblinded" blind bags and my binder of extra FIM trading cards into my suitcase since I had some extra space. By the end of the first day of sales, Mary and I had completely sold out of our "unblinded" blind bag ponies and I had off loaded some extra FIM trading cards, but not much else. It was interesting that when Bronies came to look in the blind bag bin, they were primarily looking for the "Mane 6" ponies and didn't have much interest in any of the other characters. Collectors tend to look for the other characters first, so this was a new perspective for me.
The vendor room consisted of about 30 tables of handmade pony items. Hats, scarves, fan made plush ponies, necklaces, keychains made out of the blind bag ponies, custom tee shirts, and fan art. Official merchandise was offered by WeLoveFine and Enter-Play cards, but other than that everything else was custom/fan made. It was a little strange to be in a room full of pony stuff and none of it be toy ponies or Hasbro produced.
Since we were classified as Vendors, we didn't have to wait in the epic registration line. It seemed to go on forever, but the Bronies seemed more than happy to stand in line for hours to be admitted into the event. We found that standing in really long lines is really typical at most conventions and it isn't considered a big deal or an inconvenience. Mary joked that we would be strung up by our shoelaces if it took six hours to complete Fair registration. I guess collectors aren't as patient (myself included).
We took a little break for lunch and attended a paper pony craft panel where you could make your own paper "bwob" pony, but had to wait for about 40 minutes after the scheduled time because an organizer had misplaced the supplies and they had to go buy scissors, crayons and glue. We actually welcomed the break to sit back and relax, and it was just as well since my first foray into pony themed paper crafts resulted in an epic fail. Poor Pinkie Pie "bwob" pony found her way into the wastebasket after about 30 minutes of struggling to get her pieces to stick together with little success. The finished product that was shown by the host of the panel was really cute. Mine... not so much.
After our unsuccessful go at paper crafts we went back to manning our table. We were able to chat with several Bronies about why they feel a connection with My Little Pony, and what motivates them to band together with other Bronies. The vast majority pointed to the sense of belonging that they felt among the Brony culture. Something that was lacking in their everyday lives. A few noted the quality of the Friendship Is Magic animation originally piqued their interest, but that they identify as a Brony because of the community.
Later that evening, we attended a bit of Ponystock, a showcase of artists who create music inspired by My Little Pony (yes, this is a real thing!) We stayed for a bit listening to Brony musicians sing ballads about rainbows and friendship and some singing about more serious topics like bullying and feeling lost and forgotten, but finding solace with their friends. It was kind of heavy stuff. Then a new artist took the stage and began a version of "Baby Got Back" but with modified lyrics that paid homage to pony "flanks" and hindquarters. I'm sure it was supposed to be tongue in cheek and funny, but it was a little too much for us and we decided to call it a night. We decided to bow out of the festivities on Saturday and Sunday and instead explored Seattle (Awesome city and awesome food!) We did check out Ponystock on Saturday night and witnessed a whole room of Bronies singing "The Smile Song" and Michelle Creber (who voices the character of Apple Bloom) sing some songs from her new CD. She was adorable!
While most of the Bronies were very nice and we enjoyed our conversations with them in small groups and we had fun, the experience was a bit intense and frenzied overall. However, the Bronies seemed to embrace this atmosphere by belting out songs in the hotel elevators and mooning over voice actresses. They had a great time and that's what counts. Everfree was their event and they loved it!
I'll admit that gaining a better understanding of the Bronies was my focus of attending Everfree Northwest (Well, that and having a fun weekend getaway with a friend.) I now tend to think that the Brony phenomenon is kind of a perfect storm that could have just as easily attached itself to any other pop culture icon, Pony just happened to be the catalyst. Without the organization of the community aspect of the Bronies, I seriously doubt that these same teens and 20 something males would sit at home and spending countless hours on Pony fan art, Pony fan fic, and Pony inspired music. Some maybe... but it definitely wouldn't have the same following.
Also, if I was even remotely interested in getting a doctorate in sociology, I'd so write my thesis on Bronies. There is a gold mine of material at these Brony conventions!