Casey Wharton and his friends hang out on Skype every night. This weekend, they met in person in Baltimore for the first time.
Many such IRL ("in real life") introductions were made at BronyCon, a convention of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" fans. The community of "bronies" (a blend of "bro" and "ponies") exists largely online, and BronyCon, held at the Convention Center each year, is a chance for the thousands of them to meet and celebrate their fandom.
"We came out here to meet each other and this is where we decided to do it," Wharton said. "I like it because it brings a community of otherwise social outcasts together in a really cool conglomeration of people you don't get to see anywhere else. It's really cool to watch and be a part of."
The convention — which packs the Inner Harbor with all manner of costumed bronies — combines art, music, fan fiction, cosplay and animation. Like ComicCon and other similar conventions, BronyCon features not only fans but celebrities in the genre, including some of the show's writers.
On Sunday, two DJs played an electronic set, while a brown stuffed pony sat onstage at the end of their table.
A circle of bronies with their eyes closed sat on the floor nearby playing an imaginative game resembling some sort of Duck-Duck-Goose. Nearby, more bronies searched out the best costumes, taking picures with their favorite characters.
Much of the convention is spent waiting in line, so much so that it's jokingly referred to as LineCon, even by event staffers.
As hundreds waited in one that snaked around the top floor of the Convention Center for the closing ceremony, a BronyCon staff member climbed onto a chair to toss Starbursts into the cheering crowd.
The convention isn't limited to "My Little Pony" fans — many of the costumes blended other pop culture references.
A Nicolas Cage impersonator carried a framed "Equestrian Declaration of Independence."
James Tolley, 43, of Lynchburg, Va., wore the battle armor of the main character in the military science fiction video game "Halo." One man donned the hat of Ash Ketchum, the main character in the "Pokemon" series. Another wore an Indiana Jones hat, "Indiana Brones," perhaps?
"This is a great collection of people that just want to come together and have fun together, be agreeable," Tolley said. "Everybody is one family. You can't ask for much more than that."
Isabel Greene, 28, of St. Louis said the intense fandom of the show made for a welcoming community and allowed her to meet many of her best friends, including Weiss Abel, her girlfriend.
"Ponies in general have brought me together with so many great friends," she said. "It really helped me come out to the LGBT community, and meet my girlfriend here. It brought my life together in a way, meeting these wonderful people. I write stories now; it really sparked my creativity."
Abel, 24, of Connecticut, held up a picture of two nuzzling ponies — "our ponysonas," she said.
Their friend, Ray Powell, 19, of South Carolina, said the atmosphere at BronyCon is electric.
"The energy is amazing," he said. "You can't go into some of these panels and not come out with a bit of energy. You don't really feel tired until you leave the convention."