Dated July 14, here is an article in The Pitt News, the daily student newspaper of the University of Pittsburgh:
Pittsburghers got a taste of the wild side this weekend as ferocious tigers, playful puppies and fox-tailed fursuiters flocked Downtown. The costumed company left behind a layer of fur and dumbstruck awe in their wake.
Anthrocon is the world’s largest gathering of furries — people who belong to a subculture interested in anthropomorphics, which are animals with human qualities, personalities and character. The convention came to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center from July 9-12. It featured a slew of activities and events, including a dealer’s room where attendees could purchase furry merchandise, breakout sessions and panels, the first-ever outdoor fursuit parade and a “zoo,” a meeting room where furries could interact and socialize.
The David L. Lawrence Convention Center has hosted Anthrocon since 2006, and the organizers expected about 6,200 furries to show up this year — instead, 6,389 furries attended, up from last year’s attendance of 5,861.
The convention is more than a costumed get-together. Samuel Conway, the event’s chairman and chief organizer, said Anthrocon has a purpose.
“The gathering is a celebration of the art of cartoon animals, be they in animation, in costume, in puppetry, in artwork or elsewhere,” Conway said.
Furry art and costumes filled the dealer’s room in the convention center, where vendors sold everything from art and literature, to tails and pieces of fursuits.
One of the vendors, Jessica Angus, displayed her inventory of resin head blanks and other plaster fursuits parts. She provides the basic components which make up the “skeleton” of a fursuit.
“Starting from the base is the most difficult part,” Angus said.“Once [customers] have the basic parts, they can add accessories like claws, paw pads and fur.”
The dealer’s room also included a charity raffle with donated items raffled off to support the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.
Brian Harris, charity director and co-founder of Anthrocon, said the board of the convention chooses which charity will benefit from the auction each year.
"All charities are animal-based and located within Pennsylvania," Harris said.
In addition to the dealer's room and charity auction, there was also a lineup of more than 150 panels and smaller breakout events that catered to many niche interests. Some of the panels included advice and tips for first-time Anthrocon attendees, while others included lectures on writing, dancing and singing.
One of the main events of this year’s Anthrocon was the fursuit parade, which, for the first time, the organizers held outside of the convention center, rather than inside. Many local Pittsburghers came out to see the parade and were supportive of the furry convention and the culture.
Furry culture originated in the 1980s and expanded throughout the ‘90s, due largely to the Internet. The web helped connect the like-minded individuals and gave them a platform to interact and plan conventions like Anthrocon.
Misha Krul started attending furry conventions in 2009, and she’s been a part of the online community since 2000. She said the convention feels like “one giant homecoming celebration.”
“Many folks here haven't seen their closest friends in a year or more, so there's always tons of hugging, laughter and cheerfulness,” Krul said. “I like to joke that you know you're at a furry convention when your face hurts from smiling so much."
She added that the community offers its members a tight-knit, accepting community, adding that furries will go to great lengths to take care of their own.
“It is incredibly comforting to go through life having this global support network, and it speaks very strongly of the fandom's values and generosity,” Krul added.
Bob Passovoy, a physician in Chicago, is part of the Dorsai Irregulars, the volunteer organization that provided security for the event. He said he continues to come to these conventions because he likes the people and the excitement.
“These are my family and friends, and this is what we love to do,” Passovoy said. “[Anthrocon] has the energy of the sci-fi conventions of the 70s and 80s that you just don’t see anymore, since the sci-fi fandoms have splintered.”
Furry culture and fandom has generated controversy in the media over the years. Controversy has surrounded the sale of sexual art and merchandise at conventions, and critics stereotype conferees as having sex with each other while in costume.
Television shows, including an episode of “CSI,” which portray furry conventions as costumed orgies, and mentions of furries and sexual behavior on shows like “30 Rock” and “The Tyra Banks Show” have also contributed to the stereotype.
But, Conway said, the public perception of furries isn’t as concerning as it once was.
“The public's perception of ‘furries’ got off to a rocky start, but it is increasingly less of a concern,” Conway said. “We have debunked many myths about our fandom and quite frankly, they are old news by now.”
Krul also said the public perception of furries is becoming more positive.
“As society continues to become more open and accepting, I see no reason why the fandom won't continue to grow in numbers and gain greater support from outsiders,” Krul said. “Someday, dressing up in an animal costume for fun on the weekends might seem no more weird than painting yourself from head to toe in the colors of your favorite sports team.”
Despite the controversies surrounding the fandom, Conway said he has no issue with the tepid public perception.
“People still tend to think that we are rather eccentric,” he said. “That, I cannot deny, and I really do not feel it’s necessary to change it.”