My First Furry Convention

As much as I would love to put photos in here, I didn’t have the awareness I do now that furry is a majority-queer community, so I wasn’t very careful about obscuring faces in the photos I took.

Sonic the Hedgehog was my first crush at a young age, so I was destined to become part of this weird, wonderful little community we call furry. I’ve done what many furries aspire to: go to a convention. Furry Weekend Atlanta is local, so the 2016 convention made a good first.

Day 1

I got to Furry Weekend Atlanta 2016’s hotel, the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, on the second day of the convention, so I walked into the lower floor of the hotel completely bewildered. Without the first day lines to guide me, I didn’t know where to go.

To my left was a giant room with people milling about. I tried to go in, but the woman at the door said I needed to get my badge first.

“Where do I do that?”

“Upstairs.” She pointed at the escalator in the middle of the lobby where I entered. I was so overwhelmed — by the drive in, seeing the tips of Atlanta’s buildings covered in clouds, the many lanes of traffic, the sheer mass of the brutalist architecture of the hotel — that I missed the escalator.

“Thanks.” I headed to the escalator, but the person I was with noticed an African wild dog fursuiter heading back toward the room we were turned away from and asked to take a picture. We did. This was my first time seeing a fursuit in person. They seem so big in pictures. In reality, they don’t add much to the suiter’s height.

Up the escalator, on to the con floor, where we finally got a look at the legendary hotel’s innards. The floor above us, which holds the hotel’s food court and leads to the mall food court across the sky bridge, had curious people from another convention taking pictures. Many of them had tails to go with their fancy business suits by the end of the convention. You can’t resist the fluff. I bumped into them on Twitter from time to time excitedly sharing the story of that time they saw a furry convention happening in the same hotel for a few years after.

We ended day one at a rave. I had a pounding headache, so I didn’t expect to last long.

Somehow, the bass pounding through the room made my headache go away. I did not dance. Behind me on the sidelines, I saw someone familiar. Someone I’d had a falling out with on Twitter. I avoided them a few more times, then made amends after the convention. It didn’t last, but we parted on good terms. Sometimes two personalities just don’t mesh, at least not at first. Paths diverge and converge. We met up again years later after they remade themselves with a new fursona.

Day 2

Fennec foxes, the real ones, are exactly as tiny and cute as they look in pictures. Wendy the fennec was there with the Conservator Center, the charity selected for Furry Weekend Atlanta 2016. I asked why she had to be caged. The last time they took her out, the crowds were too much. I know that feel. Also, fennecs can run at 30 miles per hour, so they didn’t want to risk her getting loose in that big hotel. Wendy has since passed away. Foxes don’t live nearly long enough.

The big thing for me on day two was the sky lounge social. While in line around the central barrier of the tenth floor, from which you could see all the way down, I met a guy who really knew his film. We chatted about why some old movies and shows get a HD release while others don’t. For example, I didn’t know they recorded parts of Stargate SG-1 on 35mm, ensuring it would never have a proper HD release without ugly upscaling or fancy AI filling in.

Behind us, cheesy electronic dance music emanated from a wolf. Normally I’d hate it, but the beat kept the line moving when conversation died down. Later, once we got our food, we met the friend we made in line and chatted with his friends at a table while we ate and looked out the windows.

They wouldn’t let us have campfires in the hotel to go with year’s convention theme, so we had mocha smores in little cups instead.

Day 3

Day three convinced me it was wise to skip the convention’s actual day 1. I was so out of it I almost forgot to check the Dealers Den one last time. This was long before covid-19, but a lot of the symptoms match, so it might have been another coronavirus or an actual flu. Knowing what I know now, I would have donned a mask the moment I started feeling sick just in case.

I met Rukis. If you’re a furry, you know who Rukis is. She makes cute art, but I did not know she writes. I spent several minutes chatting with her at her table. We talked about art and books, the state of the fandom, conventions. Stuff like that. Except I didn’t realize I was talking to Rukis. I recognized the art, but didn’t make the connection. That’s how out of it I was when I handed her my card to pay for my print.

I’ve since read two of her novels. The first, Off The Beaten Path, involves the arctic fox on the print I bought. Puquanah is a blind arctic fox who travels with his coyote, Ransom, and goes on all kinds of adventures. This print depicts Puquanah soon after being kicked out of his tribe, before he became a healer.

What I’ve noticed is, in the furry community, even the stars are down to Earth. I also (knowingly) talked to Fox Amoore at his panel on music composition and met a few other minor figures in the community. I hugged a lot of fursuiters.

I ended the day at Max Lager’s with the biggest hamburger I’ve ever eaten. We actually planned to go to Hard Rock Cafe, but the estimated wait time was absurd. So we went a few blocks to Max Lager’s, passing someone taking their graduation photos, meeting a guy who apparently rides around on his bicycle telling groups to stop laughing (we were).

You should go to Max Lager’s if you’re ever in town.

I decided to make my next convention a non-furry con. FWA was too small, so when the former friend I was with ditched me for 99% of the convention, it was hard to find my way around. He had more experience with cons, so I felt safe going in, but I realized it was unwise to depend on someone I barely knew. I met all the people I knew who were in attendance on the first day, and you can only hit up the Dealers Den, Game Room, and Artist Alley so many times before you run out of activities.

DragonCon is an obvious choice, but it’s probably a 2025 or 2026 thing unless one of my projects takes way off. Money isn’t as tight as it was in 2016, but I know from that experience that I need to stay at the hotel, not commute, and I need enough money budgeted to really enjoy myself. But I Did A Con, and it marked a huge bucket list item off while also giving me a more realistic idea of the experience.