We're fascinated by Bronies, the subculture of mostly-male internet nerds obsessed with the new animated series "My Little Pony." So on Saturday, Gawker's Max Read and I visited their natural habitat: the Winter 2012 BronyCon in midtown Manhattan.

The first BronyCon, held last June, was a tiny affair with just 100 attendees. But bronies' ranks have swelled on the back of recent publicity, and at the Hotel Pennsylvania Saturday afternoon about 700 people crammed into the tiny, sweltering hallways and filled the shabby ballroom that made up the site of the 2012 Winter BronyCon. Thankfully organizers reminded attendees in a pre-conference email that "You'll be in a room with many other people, so please be courteous by practicing good personal hygiene."

Many bronies keep their fandom strictly internet-based. But the bronies and pegasisters (female bronies) congregating In Real Life at BronyCon were out and proud. Here are some of the bronies we met in between watching a panel of My Little Pony fan artists ("It's hard to draw with hooves"), a raucous demo of a fanmade My Little Pony fighting video game, and browsing the many homemade My Little Pony goods for sale.

[All Photos by Max Read]

Pat Edwards aka "Dr. Psych Ology" drove up from North Carolina for BronyCon with his teenage son (also a brony) and his wife (brony-positive, but not a brony). Earlier in the afternoon he had presented the results The Brony Study, an online survey he created to understand the psyche of the modern brony. Edwards, who teaches real-life college psychology classes, found two factors motivated most bronies: "The feelings the show generates inside them, or they're attracted to qualities of the cartoon, like the bright colors."

Kevin, dressed as the pony Soarin, was working A/V for BronyCon. He plays mandolin in and writes lyrics for the My Little Pony metal band NeighSlayer.

Katie, a high school sophomore, was wearing a homemade costume of her favorite pony, Ditzy Doo. "It feels a little weird because the male to female ratio is three-to-one," she said. "But I'm having a lot of fun."

Katie in costume.

Gabriel (left) and Hugo, both high school seniors from Virginia, were selling black wristbands emblazoned with the word BRONY for $5. Gabriel started the Tumblr Bronies United to market the wristbands and enlisted his buddy Hugo as his business partner. "At first I wasn't big on ponies, but the idea about making profit on it seemed really good," Hugo said.

Obviously, we had to talk to the one brony in a military uniform. John is a member of the Civil Air Patrol, where he does search-and-rescue-work. He was in uniform because he had rushed straight from a meeting to help out with security for BronyCon, which consisted primarily of preventing starstruck bronies from mobbing the My Little Pony voice actors in attendance.

"I usually tend to keep that separate," John said when asked if any of his Air Patrol colleagues knew about his bronyism. But he wears this custom patch on his uniform, so they probably have their suspicions.

Eddie, aka "Iridescent Sparkle," just got his high school degree in December and is sort of in limbo. He's a big gamer and says his favorite pony is "A tie between FlutterShy, RainbowDash and Princess Luna." His favorite part of BronyCon: "Maybe the merchandise. I think I spent over $80."

Justin was wearing a floor-length Matrix-style leather trenchcoat. He was at BronyCon to meet the other members of a team of software developers working on a My Little Pony massively multiplayer online role-playing game called Equestria Online. The game has three different classes: "You've got your Earth Pony, Pegasus, and Unicorn."

"We had to take some liberties" with the My Little Pony universe, Justin said. "There's going to be a battle system" even though ponies are strict pacifists.

A person wearing an elaborate Derpy Hooves costume was giving out free brohoofs, the fist-pound that signals bronyly love.

The charity table.

The ballroom filled to capacity for a screening of a new My Little Pony episode.