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Furries Return To Pittsburgh For 20th Anthrocon Convention

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The furries are back in Pittsburgh!

The 2016 Anthrocon Convention kicks off today at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

This year's theme is "Roaring Twenty" -- as Anthrocon celebrates its 20th anniversary.

"Anthrocon's been here for 11 years and there's 6,500 people in attendance this particular year.  They've grown every single one since they've been here," Craig Davis of VisitPittsburgh told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Thursday.

John "KP" Cole, Events and Director, and Bob Armstrong, the director of vending and photographer for Anthrocon, joined the "KDKA Morning News" to talk about their 11th visit to Pittsburgh.

"We absolutely adore coming to Pittsburgh every year," Armstrong said.

The convention offers one-day memberships and Armstrong said they have comedy shows, talent shows, parades, concerts and more.

So, why do some people choose to be a furry?

"To understand who a furry is, you need to understand who a furry was. Furries were the fat kids that never got picked at recess, we were that skinny, brainy kid that everybody liked to cheat off of but never wanted to hang out with…but being very social creatures like human beings are, we wanted interaction and we found acceptance and friendship in the very warm, smiling, happy faces of cartoon characters who we saw on television. Well, that's who we were. Who we are now? We're simply people who never forgot their childhood friends," Cole said.

They expect 6,500 to 7,000 attendees with 1,500 in costume this weekend.

The Westin Convention Center hotel even flies the Anthrocon flag, and local businesses like Fernando's attract Anthrocons with signs, T-shirts, and special bowls, says co-owner Al Budak.

Delano:  "You actually serve the food in a dog dish?"

Budak:  "Yes, not everyone, but if they ask for it."

Delano: "How many bowls do you go through during an Anthrocon convention?"

Budak:  "A thousand.  A thousand, easy."

Tonic Bar & Grill is another furry favorite.

"It gets ridiculous. Probably our busiest week of the year," says Anthony Troilo.

Tonic gets into the furry spirit by renaming its food.

"We got like sloppy joe, we call it puppy chow.  We got like kitty chow and everything.  We got like a nice animal theme.  We try to see what they relate to and name it all after them."

But catering to the furries means big bucks for Pittsburgh.

Delano:  "How much do you think you spend?"

Chilli, a Foo Lion:  "Maybe -- well, it depends on how many people you room with -- maybe $500, $600."

VisitPittsburgh says that adds up to $6.3 million, which many local residents say is just fine with them .

"Amen to that, and the more the better, right?  So keep them coming, furries," says Tim Daigle of Fineview.  "Keep coming to Pittsburgh."

There's a bit of a love affair between the Anthrocons and Pittsburgh, says Davis.

"We have really embraced them over the 11 years they have been here.  It's become a spectator sport.  People like to come down and watch them, and they liked to be watched. So it's a really great symbiotic relationship of respect for each other."

"What is there not to like about Pittsburgh?" adds John Cole.

Cole, who dresses as a tiger, is events and program director for Anthrocon.

"Pittsburgh is a fun city to be in, and it's absolutely fantastic.  I think it's one of the greatest American cities that we have."

Cole says when you see the furries, remember, "You have people who are policemen and firemen. You have military. You have teachers. You have professional chemists, office workers.  You even have people who are very high up in Fortune 500 companies that are here."

It starts today and runs through Sunday.

For more information, visit the convention's website here.

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