c/o GreenReaper on Flayrah, here is an article from The Indianapolis Star. It concerns this weekend's IndyFurCon.
When Erin LaMar met her husband, she was surrounded by animals.
People dressed like animals, anyway.
LaMar, 31, met her husband, Mike, at the inaugural IndyFurCon, Indiana's first convention of the furry fans, which celebrates a genre of entertainment featuring anthropomorphic animal characters with human characteristics.
Fans enjoy its animal-centric literature, art, film and other media. Some of them also dress up as animal characters, with costumes ranging from a simple ears-and-tail ensemble to full-body suits.
LaMar, the convention's secretary, doesn't dress in costume but made friends in the fandom after an ex-boyfriend introduced her to a group of local furries.
She was working on staff at the first convention when she met her husband-to-be. He isn't a furry either, but came with a friend to check out the event.
Although LaMar isn't a furry, she has found friends in the local furry community and at the convention itself.
"I've always kind of joked that it's like going to Disney World, but everyone gets to be the characters," she said. "I'm more there for the socialization part of it -- being able to meet new people."
Indianapolis has had a community of furries known as the Whoozfurs since around 1998, said Scott Stauffer, 29, president of Whoozfur Inc., a nonprofit organization created to manage IndyFurCon. The Whoozfur community, like most of furry fandom, is primarily online, but members also have monthly meet-ups such as cook-outs and bowling nights.
A common stereotype is that furries wear their animal costumes during sexual encounters. While a minority of furries do enjoy such interactions, many simply admire artwork featuring anthropomorphized animals or wearing costumes socially.
The majority of Whoozfurs fall into the latter category, Stauffer said, although they welcome people of all interests and preferences.
A few years ago, a group of Whoozfurs toyed with the idea of starting a convention over a pizza outing. They held the first edition of IndyFurCon in 2010, and this weekend's event will be the third annual installment.
"It's basically just like a small version of Gen Con but instead of Star Trek and Star Wars it's cartoon animals and mascots," Stauffer said.
Gen Con Indy is an Indianapolis-based gaming convention that will start Aug. 16.
IndyFurCon opens Friday at noon and runs through Sunday. It includes panels and other events, including the improv show "Whose Lion Is It Anyway?," a charity auction, and Iron Artist, a competition modeled after "Iron Chef," in which artists have one hour to create a piece incorporating a mystery item.
The staff considers eventgoers' suggestions for future conventions each year, LaMar said. People have asked for more games and entertainers, and this year the convention will offer more of those options.
The biggest draw is the Snerf War, a massive Nerf-gun battle, she said. The staff often extends the time limit each year so people can keep playing.
Attendees hail from the convention's home state and from countries like Australia and Japan, Stauffer said. The first year, 350 people came, followed by a slight increse to 376 the following year. The staff expects a crowd of about 450 this weekend.
"The furry community is very online, and they don't always get to see everybody that they know," he said. "It's a place and time for everybody to get together in one location."
Paul Crozier, a 35-year-old pharmacist, lives in Canada but has staffed IndyFurCon every year. He is director of guest relations this year.
Crozier met Stauffer and other Whoozfurs at another convention and became fast friends.
About a year after getting involved in the furry fandom, he decided to get a costume. At most furry conventions, between 20 and 25 percent of attendees have full suits, he said.
Some just aren't interested in dressing up, while others balk at the price. Partial costumes, like the one Crozier wears, can cost around $1,000, while full suits can rack up bills as high as $5,000, he said.
Crozier, a Star Trek fan, dons a Star Trek uniform along with his custom-made panda hands, feet, head and tail when he dresses as his character, Pandez Panda.
"I guess when I was in school, some people wanted to be the football player or the cheerleader. I wanted to be the mascot," he said. "I wanted to be the one psyching up the crowd."
Stauffer also has a costumed persona, or fursona. His is a tiger named Tora NightProwler.
The suits, while fun to wear, have a downside: they are furry sweatboxes.
At the convention, people can visit the Headless Lounge, where they can take off their animal heads, sit in front of a fan and gulp down water.
"Wearing a fur suit, you can burn off five pounds just by walking up a hallway," Crozier said.
Whether attendees like to dress like tigers or are just coming to see the art, IndyFurCon is open to everyone.
From people intensely involved in the fandom to those who are merely intrigued by it and want to learn more, all are welcome, LaMar said.
For many people, IndyFurCon is their first furry convention.
"We're kind of the place where people get their feet wet," she said. "We are there if you want to come and out and have a good time. If you want to see what it's about. We're not hiding."