PITTSBURGH — At the time of Pittsburgh’s inception, fur passed through town as one of the most valuable of colonial commodities. Fast forward to the present day, and fur enters town not as a good, but as a symbol.
The 17th annual Anthrocon Convention, where people dress up as "furries" and parade about town, is set to begin at the Westin Hotel and David L. Lawrence Convention Center. This year marks the 8th year the event has been held in Pittsburgh.
With a record-breaking crowd of around 5,500 expected to be on hand, furries will converge on the three rivers from across the world.
Gregory Sims, who goes by his furry name “Sim” and will be dressed as a polar bear for the event, traveled from Connecticut to attend the convention. He has been attending Anthrocon since its beginning in 1997.
“The craziest thing I’ve seen is that it’s now ten times bigger than it was,” Sims said. “I remember in Albany where there were maybe 600 people, and now it’s pushing 6000. It just exploded. The Internet has grown it. When it started the Internet was very minor, there were maybe 200 suitors (those who attend and dress up), now there are 1500 suitors.”
The event is a second home for Sims.
“I have friends here from San Francisco, Chicago, even internationally, and I’ll only get to see them here," Sims said. “It’s the only chance I have to see them.”
The event serves as a chance to be your inner kid, Sims said.
“You can be what you want without a parent telling you no,” Sims said. “If you want to run around, you can. I have a fur suit, if you want to run around in suit, you can. It allows for a lot of freedom of expression and creativity that outside in the normal world, you don’t see nearly as much of.”
Joey Darroch, known by his furry name “Kamunt," traveled to Pittsburgh from Chicago for the event. It’s his third time attending Anthrocon, although he doesn’t dress up in suit.
“Crazy things tend to happen here pretty regularly,” Darroch said. "The people in costume, their shenanigans are endless. When people really get in character, some when they get a little alcohol in them and then get in the suit, they’re even more fun. Just silliness and fun about, those are my best memories.”
Darroch said his returning to the event is cathartic in a way. He enjoys being at the convention with his friends and well as meeting new friends.
“We’re just kind of chilling and broing out,” Darroch said. “It’s like a weekend long frat party in a way.”
The friendliness of the attendees is what brings Justin Bastock, going by his furry name June, back to the event from Akron for the second time.
“You can literally go to any table and just start talking to people,” Bastock said.
Bastock will be dressing up as a blue fox-cat-rock-plant. “It’s an animal-vegetable-mineral,” he said.
The event is just a bunch of people seeking out a good time more than anything else, Darroch said.
“We’re completely innocuous, we aren’t here to offend, we’re here to party and have fun,” Darroch said. “We’re here just to have a good time and enjoy the city, the weather and the people, and we hope we can provide the city with some entertainment. We know that there are people here that look forward to seeing us every year.”
For Pittsburghers who aren’t aware of what the event is truly about, Sims cautions against believing everything you hear.
“Sometimes we get a lot of bad publicity because the people who talk the loudest aren’t necessarily the ones who should be,” Sims said. “The people who come here and see the thing, they will come back. They fall in love with it. You have to see it to appreciate and understand it. You have to see it to believe it.”