The world’s largest convention for furries, those fascinated with anthropomorphics, returns to Pittsburgh this weekend joining thousands of attendees Downtown in custom fursuits, ears, tails and everything in between.
“We’re expecting a little over 6,000 this year,” said Samuel Conway, convention chair and chief executive of Anthrocon Inc. “It’s had fairly steady and fairly sharp growth ever since we started.”
The convention began in 1997 with about 300 attendees before deciding on Pittsburgh in 2006. Organizers have returned every year.
“They’ve embraced us and we’ve embraced them right back,” said Tom Loftus, vice president for communications with tourism advocacy group VisitPittsburgh. “To be honest, in 2006 it was a curiosity. People didn’t know who they were, but now when it comes to July we’re wondering where the furries are. We love them; they’re a great group.”
The convention has always included an annual fursuit parade, but 2015 will mark the first time furries will march outdoors. The Fursuit Walk parade, expected to include about 1,300 characters, will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday on Tenth Street outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Though those in full fursuits are typically more visible, Conway said 80 percent of furries do not wear full animal suits. Many come for the artwork, to meet people who design and create costumes and connect with others who share a love of cartoon animals.
“We have an entire world of dreamers that look to animals for their inspiration,” Conway said. “How great would it be if animals could walk and talk as we could? And the image of the anthropomorphic animal is a universally accepted image.”
Anthrocon includes workshops, acting seminars, costume-building, animation, writing, art, design, lectures and more. Conway said furry fandom encompasses a diverse group.
“We have teachers, we have union laborers, we have scientists, firefighters, police officers, military personnel, computer programmers, you name it,” he said. “Anybody out there who is able to dream and likes animals can be a furry.”
As tourists, Loftus said the furries leave an even greater economic impact on the city at large.
“This year alone there’s going to be $5.7 million in direct spending,” Loftus said. “But I think even a cooler story is every year they donate money back to the community. They choose a charity or a non-profit and this year it’s going to be the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.”
Last year, convention-goers donated to the National Aviary.