The stigmatization of furries, the online taunting and trolling, is something that's plagued the community (known as the furry fandom) since it began popping up in mainstream media and on TV shows like CSI, ER, and Entourage in a consistently ruthless "look at these perverted freaks" sort of way. But, in reality, furries are some of the nicest, fun-loving, and respectful people—people who just happen to feel more like themselves when roleplaying as anthropomorphic woodland creature in custom-made fursuits.
As with most underground social groups, the best place to see all your like-minded friends is the convention scene, and Biggest Little Fur Con (BLFC) in Reno, Nevada was no exception. Every year, nearly 50 furry conventions take place across the US, and BLFC is the fastest growing con on the circuit, tripling its attendance in just three years. This year, from May 12 through 15, approximately 3,500 members of the furry fandom attended BLFC, making it the third-largest furry convention in the US. According to the organizers, some estimate that the four-day event brings in upwards of $3.5 million to the city. Nervous and excited, I hopped on a plane to America's biggest little city to meet up with Martin Freehugz, a furry friend who got me more interested in the subculture, for my first ever furry convention.
Upon arrival to the resort, I was greeted with a wave of fursuiters strutting on patterned casino carpets, together representing species that spanned the entire spectrum of the animal kingdom. If you can think of it, you can fursuit as it. Dragons, lizards, deer, wolfs, foxes (lots of foxes), eagles, and even some original animals the furries have made up, like the Dutch Angel Dragon and other adorable fairytale creatures come to life.
At BLFC, the emphasis on fun, cuteness, and creativity was everywhere. There was life-size Yahtzee, go-karting, video games, board games, and copious amounts of dancing. At night, a series of fandom fave DJs blasted the crowd with EDM and trance. Getting lost in the lights and lasers among a crowd of fuzzy, wide-eyed animals on two feet was an overwhelming experience. I found myself dazed and half-crying, but also overjoyed in a way I hadn't expected.
I roamed the halls with Martin/Freehugz in his blue wolf suit, who seemed to know everyone. In fact, everyone seemed to know everyone—you couldn't go 20 feet without seeing an attendee gleefully stop a fursuiter for a hug and a picture. It became apparent that the fursuiters were the local celebrities of the scene, and certain suiters were extra famous, with huge online followings.
The other celebrities of the con were the artists, the people who draw your chosen furry charterer's representation, or fursona, in a variety of mediums and scenarios, such as homemade accessories, badges, comics, and more. Free of corporate sponsorship, the "dealer's den" hosted artists and makers selling their wares to a crowd more than ready to spend. The organizers of the event even told me the dealer's, collectively, were expected to make somewhere in the $100,000-200,000 range.
After a night of dubstep, hugs (furries love hugs), and spiked chocolate milk, it was time for the highly anticipated Fursuit Festival. While most fur cons have a parade of fursuiters, BLFC opted for a Festival of Fur, where nearly 1,500 fursuiters gathered for a giant group photo before breaking out into dancing, games, and a plethora of organized photoshoots. An announcer could be heard over the loudspeakers saying things like "Predators vs Prey photo shoot at station four, Blue Fursuiters at station one, Malamutes on five." Two parents and their fuzzy little offspring, all in fursuit, skipped by me and my heart grew two sizes. I watched as they disappeared into a sea of neon fur. See more photos from the convention below.
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