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Pittsburgh embraces Furries invasion

| Saturday, July 1, 2017, 7:54 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Anevay Peacemaker, 2, of Clarksburg, Tenn., hugs an attendee of Anthrocon outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Attendees of Anthrocon line up for a group photo inside the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Aubrey Mitchell, 6, of Brighton Heights celebrates with an attendee of Anthrocon during the furry parade outside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A beam of sunlight shine across a few of the attendees of Anthrocon before a group photo inside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Attendees of Anthrocon march outside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Attendees of Anthrocon march outside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
An attendee of Anthrocon gets a sip of water from a friend inside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Christine Pamble, 11, of Charleroi reacts to attendees in the parade for attendees of Anthrocon outside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
An attendee of Anthrocon boards the Empress, one of the Gateway Clipper fleet, outside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Attendees of Anthrocon walk aboard the Empress, one of the Gateway Clipper fleet during and riverboat cruise for Anthrocon, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
The heads of fursuits sit on a table inside the Empress, one of the Gateway Clipper fleet, during a cruise for Anthrocon on Pittsburgh's three rivers, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Two attendees of Anthrocon sit by the Allegheny River outside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Two attendees of Anthrocon take in Pittsburgh from the deck of the Empress, one of the Gateway Clipper fleet, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
An attendee of Anthrocon takes in Pittsburgh from the deck of the Empress, one of the Gateway Clipper fleet, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Anthrocon attendees, Volknochi, of Columbus, Ohio, and Trance Husky of Valparaiso, Ind., joke around outside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Lazr Roman 9, of Lawrenceville reacts to an Anthrocon attendee outside a restaurant on 10th Avenue, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Anthrocon attendee Mimi of Glassport makes adjustments in her fursuit at Fernando's Cafe on Liberty Avenue, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Anthrocon attendee Lisa Clark of Chesterfield, Va., (left) hands a menu to her daughter, Madison Clark, 16, at a restaurant on 10th Street, Downtown Pittsburgh, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A beam of sunlight shine across a few of the attendees of Anthrocon before a group photo inside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
An attendees of Anthrocon walks across the bridge at the David Lawrence Convention Center, Friday, June, 30, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
An Anthrocon attendee known as 'Chamelion' of Washington, Pa., waits to board the Empress, one of the Gateway Clipper Riverboats, outside the David Lawrence Convention Center, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Adam Horner, Henderson, N.C., (right) jokes with his sister, Heather Horner, from the deck of the Empress, one of the Gateway Clipper fleet, during a riverboat cruise for Anthrocon, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
An attendee of Anthrocon known as Pandaroohooo of Kalamazoo, Mich., takes in Pittsburgh from the deck of the Empress, one of the Gateway Clipper fleet, Thursday, June 29, 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
An attendee of Anthrocon takes in Pittsburgh from the deck of the Empress, one of the Gateway Clipper fleet, Thursday, June 29, 2017.

It's not about the costumes — not completely, anyway.

"Because that's what people see, that's what people think is a majority of what goes on here," Anthrocon board member John Cole said.

The convention — best recognized by the attendees it draws who spend the weekend inside a big, mascotlike costume — is in its 12th year in Pittsburgh, and it's become just as beloved by locals as it is by convention-goers themselves.

A fursuit parade drew hundreds to Downtown on Saturday afternoon — adults and children alike. Many are stopped and asked for photos, and they happily oblige.

Cole said that Anthrocon is different than, for example, a science fiction convention or Harry Potter convention in that there is no preconceived storyline. Only about 20 percent of Anthrocon attendees partake in costuming. Some write, some draw — it's all about telling a story.

"Most of the attendees have created their own character out of their own mind," he said. "They're creating stories or doing artwork or something else that's completely unique."

Cole said the reasons for joining the fandom are as varied as the participants.

Heather and Adam Horner drove overnight from North Carolina for their first Anthrocom.

Heather, 16, designed her own costume, from the colors to their patterns. She's been a part of the fandom for three or four years.

"I first wanted to (get involved) when I was 12 or 13," she said. "I've always been into anime, cartoons, (and) animals."

She got her brother, 19-year-old Adam, into it as well.

Rayne Taylor, 22, drove 13 hours from Columbia, S.C., for his inaugural trip to Pittsburgh and to Anthrocon.

"I love it — I love this," he said, beaming and gesturing to all the costumes around him. He said he's been to other Furry conventions in different places, and the reception is nowhere near as warm as in Pittsburgh.

"This is a break from regular life," he said.

That's one of the main concepts, Cole said, and it's one reason so many of the participants wound up in the Furry fandom.

He said so many people ask, "Who are you? What are you?" but the answer isn't quite so simple.

"To know who a Furry is, you need to know who a Furry was," he said. "We were the fat kid that never got picked a recess. We were the skinny kid that was always picked on by bullies. We were that awkward kid who was always standing at the wall waiting for someone to ask him to dance. We were the brainy kid that everyone wanted to cheat (off of) but never got invited to parties. We were the people who craved social interaction and social acceptance, and we're the ones who found it in the happy, smiling, accepting faces of the cartoon characters we saw on television. That's who we were."

He paused.

"Who are we now? We're simply people who never forgot our childhood friends," he said. "If that can resonate with you, you will understand why Furries do the things that they do – what inspires them and makes them want to dress up in big, funny costumes and draw these characters and have a good time."

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib.

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