A furry convention (also furry con or fur con) is a formal gathering of members of the furry fandom — people who are interested in the concept of fictional non-human characters with human characteristics. These conventions provide a place for fans to meet, exchange ideas, transact business and engage in entertainment and recreation centered on this concept. Originating in California, US, during the mid-1980s, there are now over 40 annual furry conventions worldwide, mostly in North America and Europe. The largest furry convention is Anthrocon which is held each year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- Origin and growth
- Organization and staffing
- Timing and duration
- Media and public perception
Furry conventions offer a range of volunteer-led programming, usually focusing on anthropomorphic art, crafts, music and literature. Some raise money for charity. Attendees often dress up and wear artistic name badges for identification, though the majority do not bring fursuits. They may also spend money on the work of amateur and professional artists, both directly and at auction.
Origin and growth
Furry conventions started in mid-1986 with parties at popular science fiction conventions, such as Westercon and BayCon in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over time, these parties split off into conventions of their own, starting with ConFurence 0 in 1989. Attendance at furry conventions has been growing, with the number of conventions, total attendance of all conventions and maximum size of a single convention all doubling over the period 2000–2006.
Furry conventions sometimes start out as furmeets, where groups of local fans meet at a regular location, often on a scheduled basis. As the local community grows, these groups may put on events which attract dealer attention or significant fan activity and which become recognized as fully-fledged conventions. Other conventions spring up in the wake of discontinued events; for example, Califur was founded in 2004 following the final ConFurence in 2003, in order to keep a furry convention in the Los Angeles Basin and Furpocalypse was founded in 2014, after FurFright hosted their last event in 2013.
Convention programming includes presentations, panels, workshops and tutorials on anthropomorphic culture, from literature, fiction and art to science, technology and spirituality. The convention will often provide space for stand-up comedy routines by entertainers like Uncle Kage and 2, filk music, many kinds of gaming, and roleplaying sessions, as well as numerous puppeteering and performing arts events. A unifying theme is common for larger events.
Most conventions will feature some kind of an art show, in which artists' work is displayed, often for direct purchase or auction during the convention. There will often be a Dealers Den where art and comic book distributors and other merchants can sell their wares for a fee, and an Artists' Alley where individual artists are given space for no fee or a token fee, usually on the condition that they only sell their own work. Artists may also trade art between each other using sketchbooks. Erotic art is typically allowed if kept separate from other pieces, and only shown to adult attendees; a few conventions are rated strictly PG-13. Individual transactions are relatively small (usually around US$10–$50 for sketches or badges, $10–$200 for auction pieces), but the total can approach US$100,000 at the largest events (excluding professional dealers).
Major conventions tend to have a rave on at least one evening. Often there is a "fursuit-friendly" dance prior to the main event, with raised lighting and slower music to offset fursuiters' reduced vision and mobility. The use of glowsticks and illuminated poi are popular once the lights are dimmed. A furry convention is also an opportunity to socialize, and private parties for subgroups of the fandom are common.
Conventions with significant numbers of fursuiters may offer an event known as the furry games, furry races, or critterlympics. These focus on feats of dexterity suited to multiple players in teams, such as dragging a sled filled with plush toys or other fursuiters around a marked track, or racing back and forth while tethered to one another with a hula hoop.
Some conventions have established charity auctions, which (in the US) usually raise several thousand dollars for the convention's yearly charity, typically a wildlife refuge, nature reserve, animal shelter, sanctuary or rescue group. Organizers may also donate from the convention's own funds. In total, furry conventions raised over US$50,000 for charity in 2006, with Further Confusion and Anthrocon raising over US$60,000 throughout their history.
Attendees include artists and dealers offering products and services for sale to fans, and those wish to buy them. Others come for the programming, or to meet friends or other furry fans in general. Many attend for all of these reasons. Some later publish a con report detailing their experiences.
Attendees of major conventions receive a bag with the convention book (or conbook), a lavishly illustrated volume featuring themed artwork, fiction and articles submitted by members and the Guests of Honor, along with a description of the event's programming, staff, rules, guests and any charity being supported by the convention. Local restaurant information and a combination pocket schedule and map may also be included. Sponsors often receive additional items such as T-shirts, pins or ribbons, as well as faster registration badge pick-up and on-site meals (some conventions provide a con suite with basic refreshments for all members). They may also be displayed prominently in convention publications.
Fans may wear a full or partial fursuit or other costume to express their identity and entertain others, though typically less than 15% of attendees bring a costume, and few of these wear them all the time. Others may wear accessories such as ears or a tail, particularly outside the main convention area. Nearly all will wear one or more custom convention badges featuring a depiction of their anthropomorphic persona, some with attached ribbons providing an indicator of social status, such as a notice of affiliation, or sponsorship of the convention. Sales of such accessories form a part of the commerce at furry conventions.
Attendees under the age of majority are commonly allowed to attend with a notarized parental permission slip or accompanied by an adult. Eurofurence is one exception, only admitting those above 18. Underage attendees are usually given a distinctive badge to allow staff and dealers to restrict access to mature content. Government-issued photo ID is usually required.
Organization and staffing
Furry conventions are run and staffed by volunteers, though venues may require certain activities to be contracted out. Event funding typically relies on convention registrations. Many of the larger conventions are incorporated as non-profit organizations, usually to achieve tax-exempt status and safeguard the organizers' personal assets - in the US, some are 501(c)(3) charities, while others are registered as recreational clubs. The largest events may require up to a hundred volunteers, not including gofers. Volunteers are thanked for their participation during the closing ceremonies, which are usually well-attended, and often receive T-shirts or other benefits.
Timing and duration
Most furry conventions take place over a weekend, with events scheduled between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. Saturday is typically the busiest day, as most fans must return home on Sunday. One-day passes are sometimes sold at a reduced price.
Reasons for this include:
As a given convention expands in growth over the years, increased demand for programming often results in events scheduled late into the night. Convention activities may also be extended to Thursday and early Friday for early arrivals. Unofficial activities are frequently coordinated by groups of people on Sunday evening and Monday morning, usually open to anyone who wishes to join, and may include bowling, bar hopping, visits to arcades, shopping malls, theme parks, zoos, dinner or morning brunch.
Media and public perception
One public misconception, popularized by the CSI episode "Fur and Loathing", is that furry conventions are places for people to dress up as animals and perform sexual acts with each other. In an article about furries, Vanity Fair described some hotel guests as "stunned", with some calling convention-goers "freaks", "blatant homosexuals", and various derogatory terms. Some U.S. Army personnel present during the same convention described attendees as "a little unusual" and "people that have problems", while others considered the event "something nice to bring kids to."