The agony and the ecstasy of 'My Little Pony'

The agony and the ecstasy of 'My Little Pony'

The agony and the ecstasy of 'My Little Pony'

“I have had to witness some of my good friends being treated poorly,” the woman who calls herself Bunnycake wrote me over email. “And I’ve also witnessed very negative comments from people about the fandom as a whole. I don’t understand why some people are so bothered by adults enjoying abject happiness and colorful positivity. It’s like announcing to the world that you hate fun, and you hate people who hate fun.”

Bunnycake — her fan name, which I’m identifying her by on request — is speaking specifically of Everfree Northwest, a celebration of the “My Little Pony” franchise’s fanbase, held May 12 through May 14 at DoubleTree Hotel Seattle Airport.

The franchise, which includes animated shows, animated films, toys, and other adorable fantasy pony merchandise, “is cute, fun, colorful, and most importantly, it’s substantial,” continued Bunnycake, who’s one of the four chairs at the helm of Everfree Northwest. “It’s real and meaningful and the show has made such a positive impact on the world. For some, it’s helped them find a place to belong, to make friends. This show has even saved lives. It’s really quite incredible, and it’s what keeps me involved with the conventions.”

The adorable ponies and their friends go as far back as the first line of toys introduced by Hasbro in 1981. But it wasn’t until 2010, and the launch of “My Little Pony:  Friendship Is Magic,” television series, that fandom, and the concept of conventions for fans to gather together, blew up big in America.

Co-chair Kaelisa VanDyke, fandom name, “Tales,” mentioned that some of the chairs, herself included, volunteered at the very first Everfree Northwest convention, in 2012. Five years later, it’s outgrown the original location, the Hilton Airport & Conference Center, but Hilton facilitated the move to the DoubleTree.

Asked about specific activities, VanDyke continued, “We try to provide something for everyone! We have a Foal Room, which is entirely dedicated to activities for kids. We bring in stars from the show, who may be the voices of the characters, artists, directors, musicians, or writers for the series.

“My Little Pony also has an official comic, and we bring in artists and writers from that as well. These guests provide panels and events to enhance the attendee experience. We also have a ton of fan panels, submitted by those already coming to the convention! In addition, we have tabletop and electronic gaming rooms, where people can come and chill with a board game or compete with their friends at video games.”

The convention takes the better part of a whole year to plan, and requires an enormous amount of planning and coordination between the chairs, other folks in charge, the special guests, who can come from all over the map, and last but not least, the many volunteers who greet and check in guests, and maintain security – with some help from the hotel on that last part. But no one connected with the convention gets paid. Not even the co-chairs.

“We try and cater our events to all ages, just like the show itself,” remarks co-chair “Thornwing,” aka Scott Kinnersley. “There are certain events that skew to a more adult audience and others to a younger audience. While we try and maintain an overall PG experience, the occasional PG13+ panel may be held later at night. As fans, we join together to celebrate the show and our shared interest in it. As an organizer, I feel we serve the fans best by holding to the same standards that the show itself would be.”

And each co-chair brings unique strengths to the project. “have lots of experience in customer service, interpersonal interactions, team management and in crowd control,” mentioned Jon Llarenas, who goes by “T1GZ” (pronounced “Tiggs”). These combined with a quick wit and sound logic have proven to be very beneficial to the conventions that I work.”

And while their backgrounds include science fiction fandom, fantasy fandom, video game fandom, and anime fandom, all four co-chairs emphasize that “My Little Pony” has certain special characteristics that keep them around.

“Coming from a sports and gamer background, where competition and tough skin are the norm,” Llarenas summed up, “seeing this level of kindness, acceptance, and praise of people no matter who or what they bring to the table is very awesome to be part of.”