Anthrocon 2017 brings furry fandom to Pittsburgh with parade and meet-and-greet!

Pittsburgh Fur Suit Parade 2017 by Furries!

More than meets the furry eye: Anthrocon is a boon to Pittsburgh with charity work and public outreach!

Spectators know Anthrocon for the colorful characters it brings to Downtown Pittsburgh, but they might not know how much those furry friends actually help the city. 

"The relationship we have with Pittsburgh is beyond your standard business relationship," said Anthrocon chairman Samuel Conway. "There's a genuine affection on both sides for the city, its businesses, its people, and then for Anthrocon. We have been embraced. We've become a city institution, whether we wanted to or not."

This year, the convention is sponsoring free HIV testing at Planned Parenthood and at the convention center as well as raising money for a local charity. In addition, organizers worked with local businesses to establish fursuit-friendly cruises on the Gateway Clipper and coupons for meals at Downtown restaurants. The convention brings millions of dollars to the local economy each year.

Organizers are able to pursue public outreach efforts partly thanks to some "supersponsors" who help foot part of the convention bill.

The supersponsor luncheon at Anthrocon thanks donors who collectively funded the convention's space at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
The supersponsor luncheon at Anthrocon thanks donors who collectively funded the convention's space at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. (Lisa Wardle | lwardle@pennlive.com)

"Many conventions have different sponsorship levels, exactly the same as public television does," Conway said. "The supersponsors pay, I believe $200 above and beyond the regular membership fee. Now, the nice thing is, just like your public television sponsors, they know full well they're not getting a $200 Versace bag. They know they're doing it to help the convention."

Supersponsor funds fully covered the rental fees for the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. As a thank you, they received a luncheon with speakers including this year's guest of honor: voice actor Charlie Adler.

"Most people aren't seeing some the other pieces of the convention that are staples for us, and we know they exist, we just don't talk about them," said board member John Cole. "It's special for those that are doing it."

Every year since Anthrocon's inception, the convention has raised money for a local charity through raffles, auctions and events. Since coming to Pittsburgh in 2006, they have raised more than $200,000. Charity director Brian Harris said they look for animal-oriented charities no more than 60 miles from the city so they can bring animals to the convention. They have a running list of options, but also receive requests from interested nonprofits.

That is exactly what Karen Phillips, founder of Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary, did to earn the honor this year.

"We started in 2013," she said. "I had been applying to Anthrocon since I started Hope Haven. It was amazing to get that response, to get an acceptance after several years where they selected other charities. It was awesome. I freaked out."

Phillips said all animal shelters cost a lot to run, but farm sanctuaries are in a different class because of the particular needs of their animals. Food and space requirements are much different for horses than cats, for example.

She plans to use the money on a pond for the sanctuary's waterfowl, more fencing and a horse trailer, as well as pack some away in a savings account to help in the future.

Karen Phillips of Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary, this year's Anthrocon charity, poses with her dog and a guest.
Karen Phillips of Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary, this year's Anthrocon charity, poses with her dog and a guest. (Lisa Wardle | lwardle@pennlive.com)

"We've already raised more money than probably Hope Haven has ever raised since it opened," she said. "It's hard. We don't have any other farm sanctuaries in Pittsburgh. They're still kind of up-and-coming, a lot of people don't know what they are."

That exposure is another benefit of having space at Anthrocon. Phillips brought her dog, two turkeys and a chicken to draw in visitors and explain the process of saving farm animals from neglect, abandonment and slaughter. And at the world's largest furry convention, her message is sure to resonate with at least some guests.

Attendance numbers are not yet available for the 2017 convention, but 7,308 people came to Anthrocon last year. 

See more Pittsburgh coverage on PennLive.

Furries descend on Pittsburgh this weekend, and the city is ready!

Furries at Convention Ctr

Local businesses are once again rolling out the red carpet for Anthrocon.

For the next few days, Pittsburgh has a new tourism slogan: “Mighty. Beautiful. Furry.”

VisitPittsburgh officially instituted the temporary tagline to celebrate Anthrocon’s return to the city for a 12th year. The agency isn’t alone in welcoming back the world’s largest convention for fans of anthropomorphics (aka furries). Local restaurants, bars and businesses are greeting the furry crowds with open arms, offering a slew of special deals and treats to conference participants.

Advertisement

Downtown Pittsburgh is about to take another walk on the wild side, because the Furries are back in town.

Anthrocon begins Thursday and runs through Sunday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The annual convention attracts thousands of furries -- people who are fascinated with anthropomorphics and often wear animal costumes as they walk through the streets of the Golden Triangle.

About 8,000 people are expected to participate in the show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, representing all 50 states and almost every continent, according to Anthrocon public outreach director John Cole, who goes by “KP.” He expects more than 5,000 will show up as spectators for the Fursuit Parade on Saturday.

Furries make a big economic impact. Each year, the convention brings $7.1 million in direct spending (things like hotels, restaurants, taxis and shopping) to Allegheny County. Over the past 12 years, Anthrocon is estimated to have contributed more than $53.2 million in direct spending to Pittsburgh.

For businesses that want to send a welcoming message, Cole recommends paw prints. “Just draw paw prints leading into your restaurants,” he said. “That’s a universal signal that you are asking furries to come in.”

And restaurants are following suit. For furries who want to get a drink or a bite to eat, specials and prizes abound.

Best deals for furries in Pittsburgh

Sienna Mercato, located just steps from the Convention Center, went as far as to change its Twitter name to Sienna Fur-cato and posted a message welcoming Anthrocon participants.

Per Sienna spokesperson Jesse Ament, the entire three-level venue, which encompasses meatball joint Emporio on the ground floor, upscale dining room Mezzo on the second and bar Il Tetto on the roof, will be “fursuit-friendly.” That means people are welcome to wear their fursuits throughout the building (although they might need to show ID at some point).

There’s also a social media contest that asks people to take a photo in their fursuit at the restaurant and post it on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the tag #siennafurcato. The most liked photo will win a $100 gift card and the title of Fursuit King/Queen of Sienna Furcato.

The Westin Pittsburgh, where many furries gathered on Thursday afternoon, calls Anthrocon its “favorite time of the year.” The Starbucks attached to the hotel is selling what it calls the Furryccino 2.0.


Fernando’s Cafe designed a poster with the slogan “Paws down, best pizza in town.” Furries have a special bond with Fernando’s (or Furnando’s), which offers a dog bowl special.

But, uh, how do fursuiters eat and drink exactly?

“Most people don’t eat and drink in costume,” Cole explained. “A lot of people don’t want to get food on [it].”

Most fursuiters will go back to their room and change and shower (fursuits are hot and sweaty) before grabbing a bit to eat. Drinking is another story because “some costumers don’t want to take the costume off at all,” Cole said.

When they do drink in costume, fursuiters usually use a long straw that fits through their suit’s mouth piece, or will drink from a bottle that fits inside their costume’s headpiece.

The sight of animals sipping cocktails won’t likely turn any heads, since it’s all happened many times before. Furry conventions are held all over the world, but the Pittsburgh is particularly memorable for participants.

“No other city partners with their convention the way that Pittsburgh partners with Anthrocon,” Cole said. “It’s a special feeling.”

Photos: The Furries are back in town!