Furries feel the love from Pittsburghers as Anthrocon begins
A 6-foot-8-inch Asian Black Bear was spotted in Downtown Pittsburgh on Friday, which is not considered unusual in early July.
Similar animal sightings will be predominant all weekend long as the annual Anthrocon Convention invades Pittsburgh through Sunday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The adult costumed furries have visited Pittsburgh annually since 2006.
An estimated 9,000-plus “animals” and their human friends will be in town, many participating in a grand parade at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The aforementioned bear is “Yojiro.” He’s from Vermont. He’s not bothered by the July heat, because an “easy cool vest” helps him endure temperatures in the 80s and 90s.
He said he will be one of the thousands of furries in the parade. So will “Jazzy,” who is a bunfox, and his partner “Fetzi,” an otter. The couple from Connecticut said the energy level in Pittsburgh is through the roof and that they have always felt welcome here.
To show Pittsburgh’s appreciation for the furries, Tom Loftus, chief marketing officer of VisitPittsburgh, presented the chairman of the convention, Samuel Conway, with a Pittsburgh parking chair. The parking chair is part of a marketing campaign by VisitPittsburgh to promote the city’s welcoming nature.
The campaign’s slogan is: “Pull up a chair. You are welcomed here.”
“We are incredibly flattered by this,” said Conway, a research scientist with a Ph.D in chemistry from Dartmouth. “I have traveled the world and have never seen any city as welcoming as Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh ‘gets it.’ Pittsburgh has embraced us.”
Loftus told the conventioneers how much he looks forward to their visit every year.
“If any group deserves the parking chair and warm welcome, it’s Anthrocon,” Loftus said. “We wait all year for them to come back. They are ambassadors for our city. They bring smiles to the faces of everyone who sees them.”
The furries also bolster the economy by staying in hotels, dining in restaurants and raising money for local charities. They have donated $295,000 to charity in their years in Pittsburgh, Loftus said. This year’s beneficiary is PEARL Parrot Rescue, which provides quality education to current and potential parrot or bird owners.
The furries want to give back to the city that embraces them, said John Cole, Anthrocon’s public outreach director. Helping others is what they do best.
About 20% of attendees are in costumes, from full fur suits to partial fur suits which include heads, tails, hands and feet, said Cole. They learn to deal with the heat. Some costumes have fans inside or cooling vests.
“This is about more than the costume,” Cole said. “When you create a persona or character, it can reflect everything you want it to. You become that character and there is no way to tell if you are a man or a woman. You can suspend a lot of world problems, because you have created someone who has never dealt with problems of the world.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .