Furries flock to Pittsburgh for the weekend!

Her fluffy tail upright and plastic eyes gleaming, Jas Rosado hesitated before answering what it means to be a "furry."

"It's a different definition for every person," the 24-year-old Anthrocon 2018 participant from Reading said Saturday afternoon alongside about a dozen other "furries" — a fox, several dogs, a panther, a dinosaur — waiting for the elevator on the second floor of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

Rosado, whose character goes by "Osador," wore a heavy — yes, it gets really hot and sweaty inside, the Anthrocon second-timer confirmed — and an intricately designed head-to-toe ensemble resembling the Marvel movie franchise superhero "Rocket Raccoon."

Rosado's companion, a "Slothpool" character with large white talons jutting from his bright-red furry palms chimed in: Being a furry "definitely is about celebrating uniqueness," said the sloth, who typically goes by Brian Quintana. He credited Rosado with handmaking his furry head and paws.

"It's just a place for people to feel anthropomorphically more in their own skin," said Quintana, 27, also of Reading, whether that means dressing like an animal of a different gender or a even a furry ghost creature.

"It's like a way to get away from the real world, and also to just open up," Rosado said. "Some people find it more difficult to open up when they're not in suit."

The Reading couple joined thousands who packed into Downtown Pittsburgh this weekend to participate in or simply enjoy the spectacle of Anthrocon 2018.

The four-day festival of furries has become an annual summer event in the City of Rivers and Bridges, drawing in crowds Saturday that rivaled those of the tailgaters and Pirates fans outside PNC Park.

Businesses up and down Penn and Liberty avenues offered up furry-themed refreshments and deals.

Signs propped up outside bars and restaurants urged costumed conference-goers to pop in for a "tail-chaser shot," grab a slice of "furesh pizza and cold beer (parade fuel)," or, "cool your fur with a few margaritas."

"People are always happy to see us, smiling and waving," said a 25-year-old South Carolina man who goes by "Bazo Bovo" donning a white-and-tan dog head planted atop a blue flannel shirt. "There's a lot of good friends. There's dancing. There's all kinds of stuff to see, a lot of cool art. And it's a great time; there's a lot of great energy in Pittsburgh."

The conference promotes itself as a celebration of "furry fandom," described as "an artistic and literary genre that is practiced and enjoyed by tens of thousands worldwide" with its conceptual roots dating to ancient Egypt.

The Anthrocon website notes that "only within the last two decades has anthropomorphic or furry fandom been recognized as a distinct fan base in its own right."

"We count among our ranks professional sports mascots, animators, cartoonists, puppeteers, artists, illustrators, and writers, as well as those who simply think that it would be a wonderful thing if animals could walk or talk like we do," Anthrocon promoters said. "... We are bound together across the most daunting barriers by our mutual admiration for these beasts of myth and legend who, by simple reflection, give us a better window into ourselves."

Not every Pittsburgher is a fan of the furries.

Quintana laments when people dismiss Anthrocon by suggesting it has a sexualized nature to it.

"I feel like they get a bad rap, really," said Miguel Montoya of Brentwood, who came Downtown to furry-watch with a friend and was particularly impressed by a creature resembling Bullwinkle the Moose.

"I feel like they're all pretty nice people. I mean, it's a great time, man."

At 2 p.m., more than 1,000 furries paraded in a loop outside the convention center, spurring loud applause and laughter from a crowd spanning infants to the elderly.

"It's quite interesting to see," said Eric Nicklaus, 39, of Pittsburgh's South Side neighborhood. "There's nothing like it, I think."

When the parade dispersed, an impromptu drum circle formed at 10th Street and Penn Avenue and several non-costumed adults and children jumped in.

"I got to hug a fox!" 5-year-old Bailey squealed as she left the circle and ran into the arms of her mom, Wendi Caldwell of Cranberry.

Wendi Caldwell said she's observed "nothing negative" when it comes to the furries.

"Even the scary ones know to step back if they see her afraid," Caldwell said. "It's just been a wonderful experience."

Her daughter was even more excited for Anthrocon than Disney World.

"I think it's great for Pittsburgh, it's great for the furries," Caldwell said. "We want to be known as a city that accepts diversity and accepts people as they are, and this is a perfect venue to show that."

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at nlindstrom@tribweb.com, 412-380-8514 or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.