"The show itself has such a positive message, and that's what the bronies seem to respond to," said Rogers, who will be on a writers' panel — and playing her ukulele — at BronyCon. "There's so much cynicism and negativity out there in so many shows, and the show promotes kindness and generosity."

The reaction to bronies isn't always as positive. Just wearing a "My Little Pony" shirt has drawn criticism at Lucia's workplace. Other bronies noted similar experiences.

"One friend at school didn't stop being my friend when I told him about it, but he was very negative about it," said Weiss, who recently graduated from Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. "With its reputation as a little girls' brand, it seemed very weird to him and he just couldn't accept it."

But, yes, they do date. Lucia said he doesn't tell women about his brony life right away, but he doesn't lie about it either.

"I've had girls completely back out because of that, oddly enough," he said. "But personally, I think it was a reason to not go out with them anyway. If they're that closed-minded to what I like, then they're probably closed-minded to everything else."

At this weekend's BronyCon, Lucia plans to go as Scootaloo, a filly on the show. More than the costumes and characters, plush dolls and concerts, he's most looking forward to hanging out with his fellow bronies.

"What do bronies do for me?" he asked. "Friendship is enough."

The first episode of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" premiered in 2010 and developed a following on the website 4Chan. The craze expanded from there, even resulting in a website called PonyChan (one of many MLP:FiM online forums).

If you go

BronyCon will be held 9:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Sunday at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St., downtown. $40-$70 three-day passes, $45 Friday and Saturday passes, $35 Sunday passes. For more information and ticket registration, go to bronycon.org.

Brony 101

What is a brony?

A brony is someone who genuinely enjoys the Hub television series "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," who is outside the target demographic of little girls and expresses it outwardly.

What is the show about?

"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" is about six magical and unique ponies from Ponyville that are able to harness their powers to defeat evil.

What do bronies do?

Many bronies express their fandom creatively. This includes art, music, fan fiction, fan clubs, cosplay and animation. Being a brony also involves attending meetups and conventions.

Where did bronies originate?