By Ken Hegan for MSN Travel

Want to hang out in Cleveland this weekend?

I’m going to stare at Mick Jagger’s gonch, of course, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Why? Because IT’S THE LAW IN OHIO. The moment you land at Cleveland’s airport, burly customs agents order you to report to The Hall.

But the main reason I’m flying to Cleveland is infinitely stranger. I’m flying in to see ‘Canterlot Gardens’ which bills itself as “the premiere Ohio fan convention” that’s “built by pony fans, for pony fans” of the animated TV series ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’.


Fans at a My Little Pony convention in New Jersey. AP Photo/Mel Evans

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a kids show, created by Hasbro, that’s designed to entertain/sell toys to impressionable girls aged 2 and up. Now in its third season, the show is about a unicorn pony named Twilight Sparkle who lives in Ponyville where she learns about friendship from five other ponies named Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie.

Where I grew up, farm kids dropped acid and watched their horses change colours, so My Little Pony is practically a documentary to me.

However, most people would refer to the cartoon as ‘Stuff Girl People Like’. But in one of the strangest developments of our young century, My Little Pony: Frendship is Magic has gained a surprise following of adult men. Usually in their 20s, they LOVE the show and call themselves (wait for it) Bronies.

Maybe you’ve already heard about these sensitive fellas. If not, here’s a good primer on Bronies from the PBS TV show, Idea Channel, which asks the question, “Are Bronies changing the definition of masculinity?”

They’ve created tons of fan videos, fan art, and a fan radio station. Meanwhile Brony conventions are rearing up all over. I’m told they’re much like Star Trek conventions, except with way more 2-man horse costumes, and a lot less hope of meeting any females over the age of 12. That’s why I will bet you big cash money that, this weekend, Canterlot Gardens will be the most interesting scene anywhere in the world. I can’t wait to soak it up in person.

Brony buddies

Bronies at the Bronycon event in New Jersey. AP Photo/Mel Evans

For the record: I’m not a Brony. I’m wary of gangs since they won’t let you join unless you kill a rival gang member. And what possible enemies could the Bronies have? Who could possibly hate a bunch of guys who are gathering (without a trace of irony, I’m told) to celebrate a TV show about magical ponies that has uplifting messages of friendship, love, and tolerance?

Rather, I’m going to Cleveland to see my buddy Peter New in action. You may remember him from our L.A. roadtrip last year (I chronicled our trip here, here, and here).


Actor Peter New, the voice of Big Mac on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

As one of the voice actors on the series, Peter’s become something of a hero to the Bronies. He plays the part of the farmer/talking horse named Big Mac. And by ‘talking’, I really mean ‘barely talking’. Big Mac is a pony of few words. His dialogue is mostly either “Eeyup” if he agrees with something or “Nnope” if he doesn’t. That’s it; no long monologues. He’s Big Mac, not Big Mamet.

Peter is one of about a dozen voice actors who are being flown into Cleveland to mingle and speak on panels. He’s already been to two of these conventions this year (in New Jersey and Seattle) and says they’re huge fun.

Here’s a list of the Canterlot Gardens events.

“Hegan, make sure you come in the evening, too. There’s a dance, and a musicians showcase where fans perform original pony songs,” he said.

I see there’s also an event called Quarter Circle Hoof 2012 which is a My Little Pony “fighting game tournament.” That, I have to see.

Canterlot Gardens runs September 28th through the 30th at the Holiday Inn near the airport in lovely downtown Strongsville, Ohio. Admission is $40 for a three-day pass, $20 for a single day, or free if you’re a VIP (Very Important Pony) like Peter.

Won’t you gallop down to join us?

— Ken Hegan

Read all Ken’s travel stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan