World Weird Web: Conventionally Weird

What's Furry, Fun, and in Pittsburgh This Weekend? Anthrocon 2008

What’s more disturbing than an otherwise normal person wearing a large furry animal suit? The answer to this question is possibly Anthrocon, a yearly convention where most of the attendees wear large furry animal suits – and then dance, sing, or film videos, among many other scheduled events and activities. What goes on in the convention’s hotel after the main events are over doesn’t even bear thinking about.

Not to say, of course, that there’s anything wrong with wanting a fantasy life in which you’re dressed as a cartoon bear. In fact, it may be very fulfilling. But looking from the outside in, there’s something a little mystifying about the whole idea. As society in general tends to be confused by people dressed in fuzzy costumes, those who have a mutual interest have established the supportive environment of Anthrocon, which takes place in Pittsburgh this year, from June 26 through June 29.

The first Anthrocon was held in Albany, in 1997. The name, an abbreviation of “Anthropomorphic Convention,” sums up the purpose of the meeting: “to operate a yearly convention in order to bring together devotees of anthropomorphics from near and far, in a relaxed social atmosphere where fans of all ages may feel welcome,” according to Anthrocon’s website.

The all-ages thing, however, has some caveats. Minors are required to have parental consent to attend, or to attend in the company of their parents. While Anthrocon’s FAQ page doesn’t go into detail on the whys and wherefores of this rule, their reference to “unfortunate situations in years past” opens up a whole world of speculation. Those parents who choose to attend the convention with their children, presumably to prevent “unfortunate situations,” are offered special entertainment aimed at “Parents of Furries.” The website does not say precisely what this entertainment consists of, but tea, cookies, and therapy might be a good guess.

For the actual Furries, there’s a much wider variety of activities. First-day attendees can get into the spirit of the event with the Anthrocon Mixer and a dance party; on the second day, they can choose from workshops on Puppetry, Advanced Fursuit Construction, and Fursuit Dance 101. Over the weekend, there are smaller events allowing Furries with even more specialized Furry interests to convene, including an African Animals Roundtable, a Husky Social, and a meeting called Cats Rule.

While Anthrocon’s organizers go out of their way to emphasize the innocuous and fun elements of the convention, and protest that dressing up as an African animal or as a cat is a PG rated activity, the sexual undertones of the gathering are clear. Guidelines for appropriate dress are enforced, and there are also rules for behavior at the convention. One particularly amusing rule states that “collars are acceptable and are worn by numerous attendees as a fashion statement, but leashes attached thereunto are not.” It’s obvious that some of the Furries, at least, see the convention as more than an opportunity for platonic companionship.

For anyone looking for the company of other animal-suited revelers, platonic or not, Pittsburgh is the place to be this weekend. While it might be too late to attend this year, rest easy – the convention will be back in 2009.


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