The Memphis Cook Convention Center is awash in pastels.
This weekend's "mane" event is the 2007 Collectors Convention for My Little Pony — MLP for those in the know — where buyers and sellers from across the nation and beyond scope out toy ponies with flirty eyelashes over almond-shaped eyes and stars and hearts accenting their derrieres.
Renee Michel, a collector since age 7, came from California with her grandpa, Dennis McKenzie. "She's turning 12 tomorrow, so this is her birthday present," he says.
Like most of the attendees, Michel proudly wears an MLP T-shirt. "They're just really cute," she says of the ponies.
Her grandfather smiles and adds, "I'm a collector of watches, so I can understand."
At another booth, a young girl points to a pony and grins. Her older brother is more vocal. "Do you have any really cheap boy ponies?" he asks the attendant.
And, of course, she does. In fact, collectors can find every imaginable pony and pony accessory at the convention, along with castles, clothing, "baby" pony bottles, rattles, and tiny pony panties.
Many collectors are hoping to get their hands on the 2007 convention pony: a Delta blues pony. Other MLP enthusiasts scan the booths for ponies customized by artists, including alien and Pokémon ponies.
Coordinator Jen Oakes can relate to the MLP obsession — her own collection is nearing 1,000 ponies.
"Most collectors had them as kids, so they're very nostalgic," she says. "They're very comforting, very sweet and endearing. Some kids collect them, too. It's quite a diverse crowd."
At first glance, I wouldn't expect Tres Donley — a man from Cincinnati with tattoos and a long, red ponytail — to be interested in MLP. "It's a childhood joy," he says while searching through a bucket of discounted ponies. "I love anything that involves childhood."
Mississippian Jenna Thrash plucks a pony from the same bucket. Then, to my horror, she twists the head back and forth. Just when I expect the head to pop off, she yanks on the bright-orange tail, and it "grows" several inches.
Thrash laughs and explains, "It's a 'Brush 'n Grow' pony. I figure there are worse things I could be spending my money on."
Now the proud, new owner of a glittery-eyed pony and another with berries on its bottom, I couldn't have said it better myself.