Busy at the Westin Convention Center in Pittsburgh on Thursday morning: the luggage cart is full of suitcases; the concierge is rushing to receive the visitors; the elevator runs through the hall; many guests happen to be wearing animal costumes.
This weekend, approximately 8,000 visitors will gather in Pittsburgh to visit Anthrocon, the annual gathering of “furry” fans at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. In short, furries are people who make, commission, and appreciate art from animals with similar human characteristics.
In Anthrocon 2018, furries celebrate tradition and community
Anthrocon was founded in 1997 and Pittsburgh has been its home since 2006. The event was a boon to the tourism industry in Pittsburgh. According to a press release from VisitPittsburgh, the 2018 conference will bring about $7.9 million in revenue to Allegheny County.
In the city centre, experienced regular audiences greet each other through their anthropomorphic aliases and embrace like old friends. The staff in the operating room talked about “the man from last year” – a participant who was asked to leave the parade to change clothes because his clothes were decorated with the Confederate flag pattern. Some long-term community members wear “fursuits” for a five-figure fee.
They are baaaaaack – when Anthrocon seizes the city center, the fur is returning
“Some people wearing expensive shoes often feel as if they have paid more for their clothes, and their furry is better,” said Julian Amiro, who took off from Boston at 3 am. “I definitely think there is a certain hierarchy.”
Anthrocon also attracted the first people to attend the conference, curious onlookers and supportive family members such as Iain and Marian Armor, who traveled from Scotland and cheered for their son, a keyboardist of a furry band.
Staff in red vests and berets lead guests to the meeting. The staff is Dorsai Irregulars, a volunteer security force composed of science fiction fans. People known as “DI” often volunteer to attend meetings like Anthrocon.
“We don’t want to be a policeman,” said Marseille Bernstein, a volunteer at Dorsai Irregulars. “I don’t want to say that, but we are those who don’t look at them, just like they are weird.”
Businesses in the city center enthusiastically accepted this conference. Several restaurants decorate their windows with paw print stickers and signboards. An easel outside Ten Penny on Pennsylvania Avenue reads: “Welcome Anthroc, please don’t wear a headgear.”
For many participants, a sense of belonging and a sense of community are the reasons for their return.
“A lot of people are very lonely. They are different children, they are weird, they are a weirdo,” said Waylon “Ashe” Darosh, the programming director of the conference. “When we grow up, a lot of furry things are like that. Hairy is the way we find a family and find a tribe.”
Take Andrew C.W. of North Carolina as an example. When asked if he was nervous about attending his first Anthrocon, he replied: “Not at the beginning of me.”