In a world where the line between kids and adults is often black and white, there are some who insist on finding the gray.
Amidst the tall trees and bustling crowds at the Texas Renaissance Fair, more than a dozen gathered along the outer edge of the arena.
Here, decked out in colorful garb, horns and commemorative shirts, they gathered to celebrate an unbridled love of magic, friendship and "My Little Pony".
== Isn't the world a lovely place? ==
Many of the people I talked to might say the magic started in October 2010 when "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" debuted. The cartoon was intended for young girls but in the two years that followed, it has attracted a bizarre following of adult men and women.
Calling themselves "bronies" and "pegasisters", they insist the show's childlike innocence and delightful candor make it appealing for all ages. Tory Evans, front man for the Houston Brony group and the loudest of the bunch, could barely contain his excitement of it all.
"I was in the Marine Corps for five years like, why would I watch it? But I laughed, so let me check it out. And then watching it, everybody goes through the same process. Why am I watching this? Why do I like this? And you get into it more and more and you find yourself laughing and really enjoying everything about life," Evans said.
== Running & skipping, merrily tripping ==
It's a sentiment that's likely shared by the 600 or so members of the Houston Brony Facebook page. While they weren't all out in force for "Pony Ren Fest", a good number trotted their way to the fair grounds to mingle and celebrate their common-held interest.
Some weren't even from Houston. Andrew Benigno was visiting from Nebraska. A pony enthusiast himself, he finds greater enjoyment from the people rather than the show.
"Well, really the show, I've seen a lot of good shows and "My Little Pony" is not the greatest of those shows, but it's the community that has formed around it," Benigno said. "Bronies are just amazing. They're kind, generous, caring. You'd be surprised, wear a pony shirt out in public people will come up to you and give you a bro hoof. I mean, I've gotten a couple of discounts just wearing this shirt."
Benigno's feelings on the brony movement were echoed by several others at the fair, including one very enthusiastic woman cosplaying as Twilight Sparkle, the main character of the show.
"I used to be a really big bookworm and I wouldn't interact with anyone and I just would soul search, keep a book and that was it," she said. "And I met other people and every single person I met that were my friends brought a little something out of me that I never knew I had. And that's kind of like the show. Twilight Sparkle and every single person she meets, she gets a quality of herself that is enhanced by the person or friend."
== What does the future hold? ==
When I asked Houston Brony founder Jonathan Dean where he wanted to see the group in a year, he replied, "bigger and better." Dean envisions convention-sized meet-ups and events and more opportunities to give back.
"I really want us giving back to charity because that was my big thing," Dead said.
It's a lofty goal for a bunch of guys and gals who love a children's show, but maybe that's the point.
"It really is uplifting in just about everything and it has such an addictive quality because there's so much dark out there in the world and sometimes you need something that's pure and light."