• Grand Brony Gala - A Calpain Retrospective

    I've been in the pony business for a long time now, coming up on six years in February and in my time I've been to a variety of conventions each with their own style, their own adventures and story to tell. Each one is unique and it was my pleasure to be invited to a convention I had not been to before: Grand Brony Gala.

    So come join me friends as I recount the highlights of my days spent down in lovely Tampa! Get it all after the break.

    Some photos courtesy of the Grand Brony Gala Facebook group!


    As usual I try to leave the day before the convention so I have a chance to settle in and get my bearings around the convention space. I admit I was rather excited, it had been awhile since I had the chance to attend a convention I had never been to before and I was excited about the prospects of seeing a new city, new vendors, and new friends. Plus after coming down from a sickness I got from a friend it was a nice chance to relax and enjoy myself.

    Got it from this horse. This horse right here!!

    After a pleasant flight and being picked up by my girlfriend we arrived at the hotel an hour or so later. The first thing that impressed me was how pretty the hotel was as a ceiling to floor water fountain greeted me as the doors opened, a lovely cafe for dining just beyond the reception desk. From there it was easy enough to find our room where I was with some of the other community guests. Settling in for the night I was ready to see what this convention had to offer! I had heard about some of the unique events held at GBG each year and I was curious to see what they had in store.


    Waking bright and early to help setup the vendor hall I was greeted by a beautiful day; an excellent start to the first day. After grabbing my badge I entered the vendor hall, a long corridor with vendors placed at each wall stretching on for as far as the eye could see. As usual with most pony conventions there was everything you could possibly want from pony merch, from plushies to prints, ties to metal flagons, there was a little bit of everything for any taste!

    Once I had said my hellos and set up my girlfriend's booth with her, I made my way over to the opening ceremonies. I was greeted by a small crowd (it was still pretty early in the morning) in the main hall and treated to a nice little opening to the convention: short but sweet.

    A small but excited crowd managed to gather for the opening ceremonies

    At around noon there was a nice panel with Jayson Thiesson and for a small convention like this a definite plus is that the crowd was smaller, allowing almost all of the audience that had questions ask them. So my advice is that if you really have a question to ask one of the staff, try and catch them at a smaller con if possible!

    You're the man Jayson!

    Afterwards, the day went by rather slowly for me up until the VIP event where con staff and attendees of a certain tier were able to hob-nob with the show staff. It was a lovely little event, with dim mood lighting, wonderful finger foods, and a crowd just big enough to fill the room but not so big as to make talking to the staff impossible. Overall a very nice experience and I imagine a good value for those who purchased a ticket for it.

    Between little events here and there I mainly spent time in the vendor's hall, talking with friends, checking out merchandise and just relaxing. All of which was a nice change from other conventions that usually have tons of people, where you felt harried by the activity all around you. Evening soon arrived  and after a pleasant dinner (plus an amazing panel by Brony Chef where he mixed some exotic drinks that helped make the evening warm and fuzzy) we retired to our rooms, ready for the next day ahead which promised to kick things up a notch.


    First off, I must admit that I didn't wake up feeling the best. Despite the rooms being really nice I felt my bed was a bit too hard and made sleeping a bit difficult. Even though I felt a bit drained I still got up, ready for the day! Today was a bigger day for the convention and more people seemed to be there that morning as well, rushing about from panel to panel, through the vendor's hall.

    One thing I noticed about this con, as I have with Ponycon in the past, is how kid friendly it was! Saturday and Sunday had little plays and activities with staff dressed and acting like characters for the show, there was an entire play room just for kids, and the entire atmosphere of the con was just nice for little ones interested in the show. Even NoOrdinaryBallonMan was in on the action, making little balloon characters for children as well as an impressive balloon setup of Derpy and Doctor Hooves from episode 100!

    Before the big event that evening, namely the Grand Galloping Gala, I wandered around and found myself at a panel or two. I'm not usually one for panels but I was surprised how much fun you can have with an audience, especially when watching something together or participating in an interactive event. Mystery Brony Theather 4000 was the panel of choice for me this time around and I had a blast watching them riff older pony content. After that it was mainly hanging out in the vendor hall (where I managed to get a Calpony sketch, seriously conventions are the best for getting on the fly commissions) until the Grand Galloping Gala that evening with a light dinner before that.

    A Cal has got to pone

    One thing I like about this particular con is the variety of food available, especially if you have a vehicle which tended to be the case as it was mostly a local convention. With a bunch of variety available it makes for a good place to hang out with friends outside of the convention, especially considering that Busch Gardens is just a short drive away!

    With dinner settling in my stomach, it was time for the Grand Galloping Gala! I had heard bits and pieces about it, such as it being a dinner theater event with a play created by the staff going on as we enjoyed a meal. I was cautiously optimistic about the event but left very impressed by the whole affair! The main room was transformed into a lovely ballroom, tables everywhere with just as many people to boot.

    This was before everyone even filed in, it was packed by the time everyone took their seats

    Once everyone was settled in it was time for the play to start! I don't remember the specific details of the play but it involved the Grand Galloping Gala, a Jar of Dreams, Starlight Glimmer's first Gala, and an ancient legend. It was pretty interesting throughout and had moments for audience interaction and intermissions for those who needed to use the facilities.

    The schedule for the evening

    The cast played their characters well and the costume designs were well done! Very good acting too, especially Docotor Whooves.

    NoOrdinary was also amazing. He made this guitar in less than a minute before the guitar solo in the song needed him to jam.

    During one of the intermission we were excused to go get dinner. I wasn't quite sure what to expect but when I saw the spread before us I was quite impressed! Salad, pasta, desserts and more were placed before us, all looking delicious. A lovely dinner for those watching the play!

    Good food with good folks!

    While I had to leave right towards the end, event was very enjoyable with a number of amazing cosplays and performances all around! If you want to ever attend a dinner theater event Grand Brony Gala is totally worth it.

    Nestling in for the night I was ready for the last day of the convention where we were all invited to a special event that had become quite common in recent years, but I hadn't had the chance to attend before: a Brony Wedding.


    Our final day was a bit quieter, but the convention was still quite active with fan and kids with parents in tow meandered around the convention space. While I had attended many of the Brony based events the past couple days, I wanted to take a look at what there was for the kids among us. Over the past couple years I had seen conventions accommodating the target demographic and wondered how well Grand Brony Gala was at achieving that goal and I wasn't disappointed.

    My first sign of kid related activities was in the room where we had the VIP meet and greet a couple days before, since transformed into a kid's playroom with all sorts of activities to keep kids busy and burn off some energy.

     A massive bounce house Pinkie would have loved to take a shot at!

    Coloring books and plenty of rocking horses

    After scoping out the activity room I went to check out the morning play meant to entertain the kids. Lead by the same gang that put on the lovely Grand Galloping Gala performance I was expecting good things and I was not disappointed. Sneaking in not to disrupt the play in progress I managed to come in in time to see kids playing a little quiz show on stage with the cast.

     A sizable crowd had gathered with plenty of kids

    While the quiz was fun my favorite part came next when Fluttershy read a story to the kids, with plenty of sock puppet friends. Gathering up around the stage the kids were enthralled, reminding me fondly of Storytime with Celestia at one of my prior Ponycon visits. A nice gesture for the kids, one I'm sure they enjoyed!

    Storytime with Fluttershy

    Afterwards I went back to the vendor's hall to wait for the wedding. I had seen a preview of the cake thanks to Brony Chef but didn't know what to expect other than it promised to be one of the biggest events of the whole convention. And boy was I not wrong.

    As I made my way to the main hall I was met with a line extending all the way back into the hotel lobby, the whole convention seemingly showing up to wish the soon to be couple well. While we waited I talked with some attendees and spotted some great cosplays along the way!

    Even Papyrus showed up to the event!

    Once I got in it didn't take long for the room to become absolutely packed! The decorations were modest, but the crowd filled the room with a happy energy and soon enough the wedding itself started. The bride and groom were impeccably dressed and as a cute little aside they had cosplayed as Cheerilee and Big Mac at the play the night before which made me grin at the realization.

     The rings presented by Arlene Jacobs

    The first dance, so lovely!

    While the room was hopping on the dance floor, I managed to head out and get some pics of the reception area with cake for the bride and groom and the guests. Overall it was a fun little affair and I was glad I attended. My best wishes to the new happy couple!

    With most of the day's activities over there was one last event left for the day: closing ceremonies. As the convention drew to a close, the main hall became packed. Soon the convention heads took the stage and addressed the crowd for a short ceremony. With thanks from the heads to the special guests, the attendees and the VIPs it couldn't have lasted more than a half hour, but the crowd left feeling happy and energized from what I could tell.

    As the con officially closed I watched as people began to wander off, getting ready to leave what had been a fun and exciting three days.


    I've had a long time to think about Grand Brony Gala when I left after closing ceremonies back in August and even after all this time I still look back on the experience fondly. It was a unique little convention filled with friendly people and while it was more of a local con for residents down in Florida it felt like a convention for so many more attendees. With a lovely venue, an amazing staff, and some of the most unique panels and events I've seen at a convention I highly recommend looking up GBG next time it comes around!

    If you are interested in what sort of things GBG has to offer without waiting a whole year, the con staff are holding a Masquerade this November so make sure to check that out if you can.

    Thanks for reading if you got this far everyone and a huge thanks to the staff at GBG for helping me attend this wonderful little convention!

    Grand Brony Gala Website

    Twitter: Calpain