The world’s largest "furry" convention is back for its 13th year at Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown. Anthrocon runs through Sunday, and this year’s theme is “Movie Monsters.”
Director of Programming Walyon Darosh said the motif provides lots of opportunity for fun and creativity, as the convention’s various departments have leeway to interpret the theme as they see fit.
“We wanted to go back with a combination of classic movie monsters as well as we’re not monsters, we’re just misunderstood,” Darosh said. “There’s a bunch of art that programming has commissioned that’s like, he’s not an evil hellhound, he’s just a fluffy dog.”
In the end, Darosh said, everything came together harmoniously.
“It’s movie monsters,” he said. “I mean, you can’t go wrong with it.”
Founded in Albany, New York in 1997, Anthrocon relocated from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in 2006. They soon fell in love with the city’s hospitality, Darosh said. His main fursona – a portmanteau of furry and persona – is Ashe, a 9-foot-tall white tiger.
“We come here to drink, we come here to party, we come here to celebrate, we have fun, we spend money. It’s what we do,” Darosh said. “The city was so nice to us when we first came here, we kind of pay that kindness back with dollars. And kindness of our own, but dollars also help.”
Organizers expect about 8,000 attendees this year, a little more than the 7,544 who vistied in 2017.
In addition to bringing millions in economic impact to the city, Anthrocon also raises money for local charities and nonprofits. Past partners include The Pittsburgh Zoo, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and the National Aviary. This year, they’re raising money for the South Hills Pet Rescue.
The convention’s fursuit parade, which opened to the public in 2015, will take place this Saturday from 2-4 p.m. In addition, the public will be able to enter one of the convention center’s exhibit halls for a meet-and-greet.
In addition to the booths and panels, Anthrocon is also a launching pad for research. University of Pittsburgh psychologist Rebecca McHugh is returning for a second year to study the community. It’s not the first time the convention has welcomed research, Darosh said.
“We call them the furscience crew,” he said. “Several years ago, Dr. Gerbasi – who is another university professor – started doing a sociological research study of furries. She is our default authority on scientific studies on furries, because she is our gatekeeper.”
The furry community is often misunderstood, but convention attendees are there for fun Darosh said. The research has served as a “wonderful way” of explaining the community to people.
“We’re not lab rats. We’re not experiments,” he said. “People want to understand just what makes us so happy.”