• Big Apple PonyCon Retrospective: Calpain

    Back when I joined the pony fandom in early 2011 I had no idea that a scant year later I would be making my first trip to New York City for a pony convention. It was my first time ever going to a convention, let alone a pony one, and would be the first time I would put a face to many of my online friends and EqD associates. Flash forward almost two years and once again I was landing in LaGuardia to spend not only my second time in the city of my first pony convention, but spend my first time as an actual guest at a convention as well.

    What followed was a perfect example of Brony hospitality, exploration, and making new friends that make conventions like Big Apple well worth visiting and that I'm proud to include as one of my many positive experiences in the pony fandom!

    Welcome to another Calpain retrospective everyone! I'm gonna be busy writing these considering TrotCon is this week with EFNW following soon after. So let's dive in!

    Thursday - Welcome to the Big Apple

    The day before the convention was dedicated primarily to travel which of course included the typical three hour drive to Detroit that was twice as long as the actual flight I was going to take to New York. It was a gorgeous day and there were no flight difficulties other than a short delay and it wasn't long till the New York skyline came into view down below. Being a pony of the countryside I was just as impressed seeing the city from the air a second time as I was back when I flew in for BronyCon 2012. With the Statue of Liberty glistening in the water alongside the skyscrapers of Manhattan glowing in the sunlight I was excited to land and get my feet on the ground.

    Hello New York!

    With baggage in hand and some food from the food court in my stomach, I went out to wait for the arrival of host family that I was going to stay with during the convention: Disco and Minty of the Bronies NYC group. I had not known the two for very long before the convention and I was a little nervous about meeting the two of them in person, but I was more than happy to have those fears quickly quelled after I met them. Meeting Disco first at the airport arrival gates he was the first to show me around some of the sights of the city as we made our way to pick up Minty in the outskirts. Only driving through the city did I get an appreciation of how big it was (also of how impossible it is to find decent parking) and how much there was to do! It was a bit overwhelming for a yokel like me, but Disco was a great guide and knew exactly where he was going at all times.

    With the night firmly setting in we decided it would be a good idea to get some grub before settling in for the night at Minty and Disco's place. Being pony people the two had the perfect place in mind: Mike's Unicorn Diner!

     I hope this means the food is made with magic and not made from unicorns

    A charming little restaurant, the three of us swapped stories and got to know each other over a nice meal before heading off to where I would be staying the next few days. Bushed from a day of travel and nervous energy, I fell right to sleep as we needed to be up early to catch the train into New York and the opening of the convention itself!  

    They even had little cookies for me!
    Friday - A Convention For All

    After a peaceful night sleep I was ready to make the trip from the outskirts into the city itself to see the convention center itself! After a trip on rail and through the metro we arrived at a station just outside the convention location and while I had seen some pictures of it before showing examples of it's grandeur I was still blown away by the noble facade that stood before me, towering over the line of con goers lined up at the door.

    The Loew's in all its glory!

    Passing under the marque and into the lobby I grabbed my badge and was ready to do some exploring. Two things struck me immediately about the venue: the first being how amazingly classy and beautiful the whole convention site was. This certainly wasn't your typical big box or hotel based convention! Secondly, it was the first pony convention that I had ever attended that was for not only fans of G4 but of all generations. This was quite evident with the attendance of MLP creator Bonnie Zacherle as well as vendors that contained quite a few customs of older generation ponies.

    The main lobby was spacious and lined with vendors, decorations and more

    At this point I parted ways with my hosts and decided to wander around. Friday was my busiest day as there were people to meet and panels that I was a part of so I was flitting about like a hummingbird trying to get as much done as I could. It didn't take long for me to meetup with friends I knew online such as Dustysculpts and Chibi-Jen-Hen to name a couple and make some new ones as well such as the wonderful Vulpinedesigns and his beautiful sculptures. 

    After meeting up with my friends I got a look at the merchandise all around me and once again there was quite a selection! Everything from hats, dog tags, sculptures, pictures, and more were represented here at PonyCon and sales seemed rather decent despite this being a relatively small convention.

    Tony Fleecs was even there to do pony sketches for just $20!

     And while I do say the convention was small by most convention standards the convention never felt too crowded or too empty and was the first I can say had a very large amount of children in attendance, both boys and girls! In fact one of the most heartwarming stories of the convention involved an 8th grader named Claire who was attending PonyCon as her very first pony convention and was actually excited to see me. Warm fuzzies guys, I tell you.

    Artwork by Claire. Keep up the great work!

    With my rounds made it was time for my very first attempt at moderating a panel, a responsibility I will admit I was quite nervous to have. Slipping backstage I met my co-host Bill and got wired up before the two of us marched off onstage and got ready to moderate a Skype call with none other than Tabitha St. Germain!

    Behold Tabitha St. Germain! She really is larger than life

    While it was a bit intimidating at first, Tabitha was a great guest and Bill was a fantastic co-host and while we had some technical difficulties everything ended up going smoothly and I was really happy to get a chance at moderating an event. As the event came to a close there was a short time to get a bite to eat (at the wonderful stage side cafe) before running back on stage to do a community based panel with BronyTime's AlphaBrony. It was fun answering questions about EqD and I'm forever grateful to those of you that showed up!

    Me dorking it up on stage with AlphaBrony and Keith

    It was only after the community panel that I was finally able to take a breather. Exhausted, but happy, I ended the day with ponies on the big screen along with an auditorium full of fans. It was certainly nice to watch some old episodes that I hadn't seen in a very long time along with people that were more than happy to laugh and sing together.

    The day ended with a trip back on the mass transit system with a new guest in tow: Vulpine! It was a pleasure talking to him about his home country and even funner once we got back to Disco and Minty's house where I was introduced to more G1 pony and Gravity Falls (which is an amazing show!). Completely exhausted I fell quickly asleep, certain the following day would be just as amazing.
    Saturday - Panels, Panels Everywhere!

    Saturday rolled about just like Friday did with beautiful skies and fair temperatures for the day! This time around we decided to drive in so that Vulpine and I could see the sights leading into New York and boy was it a beautiful ride. Passing over the legendary Sleepy Hollow bridge, seeing positively ancient buildings as they passed by was amazing, not to mention when we both finally caught a glimpse of the NYC sky line.

    Soon enough we were parked and made our way to the convention which already had a line for folks that were dropping in for that day. The first thing I noticed was how much busier it was and how many more children were there. Now that it wasn't a school day I guess visiting PonyCon was a great place for younger fans to come and hang out!

    Speaking of, Saturday was basically a hang out day as I had already moderated and done my panel the day before so I took the opportunity to visit some other panels, something I admit I have not done since Canterlot Gardens back in 2012. My first panel of note was story time with Nicole Oliver which I was so glad I was able to attend. Nicole is incredibly fun loving, kind, and mentor-like and it's almost like having Celestia in real life. She was a marvel with the children and I could tell they had a good time.

    Nicole reads to the kids

    Besides the panels though, I was one of the judges charged that day with judging art, crafts, and costumes submitted to the convention! There were some amazing pieces submitted and it was equally amazing to see how many kids were involved in the costume contest.

    Everything from Apple Sisters...

    ...to the Canterlot Intelligence Agency were present at the costume contest

    While these two events were a blast, the two huge events planned for the convention were for today: the sing-a-long and Lady Aria's concert that night. The theater was quick packed as we took our seats for the sing-a-long, the words projected up on screen as we got a delightful rendition of the songs performed on the theaters organ! It was a lot of fun and quite heartwarming to see all these pony fans singing their favorite songs together.

    A fantastic performance!

    After a brief supper, we packed back into the theater for Lady Aria's performance which would be a mix of her original music, pony music, and other pieces. I went in with neutral expectations, but came out with a smile on my face. Lady Aria has a wonderful voice and a fair amount of flair on the stage! With a variety of costumes, lighting effects, and even a fellow male singer we were all blown away by her performance.

    Simply amazing!

    With spirits high the close of PonyCon was upon us. It was sad to see it go, but it certainly was a short but sweet experience. A lot of first time convention goers seemed to have a great time for which I am glad. The rest of the evening was spent gathering up our stuff and heading back to Disco and Minty's where we then spent the evening watching old G1 ponies and a fair amount of Gravity Falls before we passed out for bed.
    Sunday and Monday - The After

    While the convention was over, I had been invited to stay a couple days extra to hang out with Bronies NYC! All I'll really say about that is that the NYC group is some of the friendliest people I've ever met and it was a joy hanging out with them in the park as well as the trip to Time Square (though I was a little hungry and tired at that point. Sorry for the grumpiness, heh.). If you all have live in the area and have a chance I'd recommend hanging out with this playful group!

    There were card games...
    ...and Corgi hugs!

    The next day was basically 'Get Cal to the airport day' and as if fate could tell that I was leaving it decided to rain that day as well, giving the farewell from NYC a somber sort of feel. But as I left my hosts at the airport (with hugs!) and took off into the sky I knew for certain that I would be back next year and that I would be recommending this convention for anyone wishing to experience a convention first hand.

    Bunch of swag I mostly got for my sis

    The coat is getting fuller and fuller!

    Twitter: Calpain

    *Most photos courtesy of PonyCon!
    **If you'd like to donate to the Loew's Jersey theater to help repair this historical building, please go here.