All Hail the Small Convention: An Introspective look at the inaugural Big Apple Ponycon.

As I was traveling to Big Apple Ponycon on that cold Saturday Morning, there were many things that went through my mind, but the one thing that I couldn’t stop thinking about is how the “My Little Pony” fandom of today is similar to the Anime Fandom of the Late 90s – Early 2000s. During that , Japanese Animation enjoyed an increase awareness that created Hundreds of Thousands of new fans. One of the many things that resulted from that awareness was the explosion of new conventions dedicated to celebrating the art form. While a number of these conventions went to become established institutions that draw tens-of-thousands each year, almost every one of these events began humbly. For those of us that lived through those embryonic years, stories of disorganization, events that started hours late and even near-misses with the law have become lore that have been passed down like the legends of old. Even with those misadventures entrenched in the memory of those who lived through them; the one aspect that shined through was the unshakable devotion of the staff to make sure that convention goers had a great time, creating an ocean of moments that will never wash away.

In the present day, the Anime Convention has come of age. Like its’ older sisters, these events not only enjoy a greater level of organization, but more notoriety than ever. In the past year alone, the top 10 attended anime conventions enjoyed an average estimate attendance of 23,969 people, numbers that took Anime Expo and Otakon a better part of a decade to even get close. With so many densely populated Anime Conventions apart of the scene, it is now possible for a con-goer to go a geek-culture show every other month, and never go to a show that has less than 10,000 people in attendance. The result of such an environment has not created a dearth of small conventions, but has diluted their importance to many. With the “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” fandom gaining more numbers by the day, we are beginning to see a rebirth of the importance of these intimate little gatherings, and Big Apple Ponycon gave me a nice refresher course on the joys of such events.

When I first reached the event on Saturday Morning, I really didn’t have any idea on what to expect from the event. Of course, I did know the basics like where the event was (the first time I’ve gone to such an event in my home Borough of Brooklyn), and who the special guests were going to be, but the answer as to how many con-goers were expected to show up remained a mystery to me till I finally stepped inside of the Hotel. From there, I learned very quickly that this was going to be somewhat of a time warp to my early convention going days. Not only did the convention take place in an area that one could easily estimate to be a hundredth of the size of New York Comic Con’s legendary exhibit hall, but the overall attendance count seemingly would’ve had a hard time reaching that same percentile when compared to NYCC’s overall attendance. Even with my years of experience, it took me a bit of time to adjust to the comparatively easy-going environment that Big Apple Ponycon provided. Once I had full understanding of what I was going to be partaking in, things went along swimmingly for the rest of the weekend.

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Looking back on the weekend, Saturday was mostly a celebration of the fandom that has become a part of many people’s lives over the past 2 and half years. Cosplayers’ of all ages and skill levels roamed the halls, bringing with them a variety of both characters and the number of interpretations of said characters, giving us a display of creativity worthy to be celebrated. Speaking of creativity, the Traveling Pony Museum also made their presence known displaying their usual eclectic mix of high quality fan work. Whether it be Poster-Sized Fanart to Gigantic Plushies, this staple of Pony Conventions has become one of the highlights of many a Convention-Goers weekend. Not to be left out of the proceedings, the dealers’ room had a nice mix of Pony-Related wares for sale. From T-Shirts, to Comics, to Pony Figurines made from wire, there was something for everyone during the 2 days.

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Programming wise, there were a couple of big things Big Apple Ponycon did differently from bigger shows. For starters, the main Costume Contest (or Masquerade for certain Convention Veterans) took place during Saturday Afternoon and didn’t feature any skits. However, this didn’t mean that there weren’t any highlights, as there were impressive costumes on all levels, especially for the overall winners, which featured a very Impressive Casual Rarity (with an Opalescence plushy to die for) and an equally as impressive Coronation Pinkie Pie, both serving as the center pieces for a truly marvelous showing. Secondly, instead of there being multiple supplemental panel rooms, the show only had one room for non-main event panels, which may have helped to make the convention seem even smaller than it actually was. That being said, there was still great programming to be had inside of Hoof Hall as both a Military Bronies and Community Voice Actress Panel headlines the offerings. Beyond the 3 events mentioned, the highlights of the first day included a Panel with the Comic Book Creators, a Skype Meet and Greet with Tara Strong and the COLTella music festival. Needless to say, despite the concentration of programming, show goers still had plenty to do.

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As for Sunday, would you believe me if I told you that I was at a convention that had less than 25 people in costume? Well, if you said no, you would most certainly be wrong. If nothing, else Sunday at Big Apple Ponycon will be remembered for how relaxed of a day it actually was. With most of the crowd-drawing events already taking place, Sunday was a day to kick off your shoes and just enjoy the company of those you share a fandom with. Despite working Press, it was a refreshing change to be able to sit down and socialize with others, which might be the best part of a Convention as a whole.

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As far as programming goes, this was a day that I would remember as an educational one. With the popularity of Friendship is Magic peaking with the 30th Anniversary of the My Little Pony Franchise, Big Apple Ponycon thought it would be a good thing to include programming that the fans of the current series could learn about the roots of the series. Firstly, convention goers were treated to a panel called “Present at the Creation: Promoting the G1 Ponies” where Joe Strike gave us a very eye-opening insight and History Lesson as to how Cartoons and Merchandising worked together since the Reagan era, earning my personal Highlight of the show moment. Not to be left alone, though this panel was joined by a showing of the “My Little Obession Movie” which went into the inner workings of Pony Collection and a demonstration of how to make your own Ponies. Needless to say, you definitely left with a better working knowledge of how the show came to be.

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Last but not least, Sunday was capped off with two Q and A sessions featuring Jason Theissen and Andrea Liebman respectively. Overall Big Apple Ponycon was one of the most pleasant conventions I have ever been a part of. It was a fun-filled weekend with a chilled-out atmosphere that you usually don’t get at Conventions anymore. Even if the convention grows beyond the small event this year’s was, I have all the confidence in the world that it will continue to be a well-organized and extremely professional event that will go the extra mile to make sure its attendees have a great time. Here is to hoping next year’s is not on the same weekend as PAX East..

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