All right, so conventions are these really big events that have bronies from large areas attending, sometimes worldwide. These are orchestrated, require a large amount of money, and generally aim to please all audiences that may be in attendance.
Meetups are none of these things. They are very local, often don’t cost more than a couple hundred dollars at the really big events, and are single occasions that only interested parties need attend. If conventions are the culmination of brony socialization, meetups are a step down.
What constitutes a meetup? Well, the easiest way to describe it would be a single event for a specific group of people to attend—say, Germanic speakers of the Chicago area. A meetup is a way for these people with a common similarity to meet each other and share interests, typically with some type of themed occasion.
In our case, it’s a brony meetup, i.e. anyone who considers themselves part of the brony fandom. This doesn’t mean you go wild over the show; you can be conservative in your feelings and opinions, but respecting the show for what it is, if nothing else, is sufficient. This goes without saying for most things in life, but for some reason, most of the world tends to lose their heads the moment they hear we watch My Little Pony… so, realistically, there are only so many places we can go.
I doubt any business would deny a large group of people their money just because they like one specific show. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If an owner decided to take a stand on anything in particular that is of merit for a meetup, this would probably be it. Luckily for us, the majority of businesses don’t bother worrying over the reason for such an event and simply enjoy the extra customers.
So, what can bronies do at a meetup? Well, I just went to a meetup yesterday evening… my first meetup. I sat next to a man named Omar, who, like me, has a wide variety of interests, and Lunar Armor (who goes by his real name of Ethan at meetups), and talked about several science fiction TV shows, cartoons that speak more to the audience than others, and the best worst movies we know of (The Room, Birdemic: Shock and Terror, and Sharknado, for those curious). There was a turnout of 41 bronies overall (by counting the empty seats), which I’m told is the best turnout of any meetup held by the host, Toksyuryel.
The meetup took place at a restaurant called Mikado Teppenyaki, where the chefs come out and play with your food while they cook it for you on a grill built in to your table. Does this shout “brony” to you at all? I think not. It was just 41 people who happened to share a common interest in a TV show and wanted to get together and meet one another.
Conventions are decidedly more pony-themed, coming from someone who’s attending one brony convention and one brony meetup. Simply put, the convention staff don’t have the luxury of hosting whatever they feel like and only having interested parties attend; they cater to the masses, so making the common interest the crux of the event is a necessity.
Meetups, on the other hand, are entirely dependent on the event. A restaurant meetup typically won’t have a high amount of socialization with random people—probably only your dining partners, and you can only talk about one topic so much with one person before it gets stale.
A party meetup thrives on bronies talking to each other, but in a more open-ended conversation format. You don’t get to know any one person extensively, but rather get to know several people to the point of name and brief description. This is just the environment, and there’s nothing bad about it—but it’s obviously a different atmosphere than a restaurant meetup, so you will attract different crowds to each.
Another common type of meetup is to watch episodes from the show—more recently, Equestria Girls was a meetup for those who hadn’t seen it yet. These meetups can also involve discussion of certain aspects of the show and provide an in-depth look at things that may have been missed.
Having a variety of options to choose from is probaby the wisest course of action. Imagine if all the meetups were just watching show episodes and discussing them. Sure, a single meetup doing that would be great… but four meetups a month doing the exact same thing? It’s dividing your crowd and making them choose. Maybe the really dedicated members will RSVP to all of them, but probably not for long. Doing the same thing over and over again just gets stale after a while.
So, meetups need to be creative as well. Dinner at Mikado’s was wildly successful because there’s no other regular sit-down dinner meetups in the Seattle area that I know of. If there has been in the past, it hasn’t been so overdone that bronies are sick of picking up the check for one dinner after another.
And what do meetups have for bronies? Well… I’ve heard tell of bronies who still haven’t met other bronies in person. Not knowingly, at least.
Perhaps it’s a small matter, but meeting another brony and being able to talk to them freely about your likes and dislikes is a difficult sensation to describe. I was raised on ponies in a social brony environment, so I’m no stranger to such a thing, but after leaving the place I was staying at, things took on a decidedly duller tone. Meeting and talking to other bronies face-to-face is a great way to socialize and meet locals, not to mention provide entertainment for whatever crowd the type of meetup attracts.
All in all, meetups are a great way for bronies to share and talk and interact concerning topics that may not necessarily be a choice in their living environments. In my situation, the people that I live with currently are very anti-brony; what I do on my computer in my free time is my decision to make, but any and all attempts to talk to others about the show or anything related to the show is met with hostility and anger. Dinner at Mikado’s was a great chance to escape my environment and just let my hair down around someone else for a little while.
To those who haven’t attended a meetup before, I would highly recommend it. To those living near a big city, chances are there’s a brony Meetup group for your area; just put “bronies” followed by the big city nearby and it will probably show up. Find a meetup that interests you and RSVP, then make sure to do what you can to attend.
For how accepting the world is becoming of certain topics and lifestyle choices, some are still shunned by society; finding a place to share these interests is a healthy and beneficial choice for mental well-being, and definitely adds to the happiness factor. So, get out there and meet others who happen to like ponies!