Tampa will be "about 20 percent cooler," as Rainbow Dash would say, when the Grand Brony Gala gallops into town this weekend.
Now in its fourth year, the gala is a chance for local fans of My Little Pony to gather at the Sheraton Tampa East and raise money for Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.
Arlene Jacobs and her daughter, Jessica, created the Grand Brony Gala as a tribute to Jessica's friend Brooke Pasch, who died of a chronic illness in 2012 at age 19. The first gathering at Metrocon in Tampa quickly grew into its own convention and fundraiser for All Children's Hospital.
"I liked the show when I was younger, but my daughter really got me into Friendship Is Magic," the version of the show that began in 2010, Jacobs said. "(Jessica and Brooke) always talked about going to prom, so we wanted a dance and a way to give back to the hospital."
Jacobs touts the annual event as a haven for anyone who wants to share their love of My Little Pony with other local fans, no matter the age.
The gala also has a Doctor Who takeover Friday and Saturday with performances by the Ken Spivey Band and a panel about Dr. Whooves, a fan-created character also known as Time Turner.
She said the Gala focuses on family fun with a children's area, games, crafts and vendors. There's also Pony debates, cosplay contests and an appreciation panel for Spike, the cutest baby dragon in all of Equestria.
"There's really something for everyone," Jacobs said. "We have a full cast of characters in costume all weekend."
So you might even get a Twilight Sparkle to call you "Princess Demandy-pants" Friday to Sunday.
What is a Brony?
A Brony is anyone who is a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, a new take on franchise that began in the '80s. Though the brightly-colored animated show about magical ponies was originally targeted at young girls, it's been an explosive hit with young men and women in their teens, 20s and 30s. The "bro" and "pony" mashup was created by older male fans, but women often take on the Brony title or deem themselves Pegasisters.
Still confused? The documentary A Brony Tale on Netflix should clear things up. It follows voice actor Ashleigh Ball in her discovery of the fanbase of mostly older men who've latched onto My Little Pony's the Mane Six: Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, Apple Jack, Pinkie Pie and Rarity. In between scenes of Ball, who voices Rainbow Dash and Apple Jack, are conversations with some Bronies, including a former football player, a motorcycle mechanic and a U.S. Army veteran.
Some find the show a soothing getaway from mundane goings-on of daily life. Some see it as a therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety. And others just really enjoy watching a show about pastel ponies with high-pitched voices.
What is the gala all about?
But also a place for Bronies, Pegasisters and newbies to the My Little Pony universe. A portion of ticket sales and proceeds from the charity auction go to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, in memory of Brooke Pasch.
Can I cosplay?
Neon wings, manes, glitter and hooves are always welcome. But founder Arlene Jacobs says to keep the cosplay PG-13.
What about celebrity guests?
Brony attendees have chances to meet, get autographs from and sit in on panels with Nicole Oliver (voice of Princess Celestia and Cheerilee), Peter New (voice of Big Macintosh in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls), Kelly Sheridan (voice of Barbie in various films and Starlight Glimmer in Friendship Is Magic) and the Brony Chef.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected]