Road to Anthrocon: Week Zero

Anthrocon 2016 Fursuit Parade Photo
Source: AnthroCon

Three years ago I up and decided to go to Anthrocon for the first time just a whole two weeks before the actual convention. Not the dumbest decision of my life, but I was totally unprepared!  If it wasn’t for friends bailing me out and offering me a room, I would’ve been completely in over my head. But I had a blast anyway and since then I’ve been to Anthrocon again and other conventions as well.

While I’m still new compared to many who have been going to conventions for years, I’ve had to learn a lot in a short period of time. As I prepare for my third Anthrocon, I want to pass on what I’ve been learning to convention goers new and old.

Over the weeks leading up to Anthrocon, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about preparing for conventions and attending them. This will be important things such as getting your hotel booked and registering for the convention, as well as the essentials of packing, how to interact with fursuiters, what you can expect from your first furry convention, and how you can prepare yourself better to survive it! We’ll also be opening discussion to experienced and newbie convention goers alike to share their stories, discuss what personal things they do to prepare for conventions, and how they avoid the major pitfalls that you might run into in going to a convention. (The focus of course will be on furry conventions, but a lot of the tips and guides here will apply to other conventions as well.)

This week I’ll be starting from the very beginning: deciding to go to a convention!

Maybe you’ve been hearing about these conventions from your friends, or maybe you’ve seen people talking about them on social media, or saw pictures or videos of gatherings full of colorful fursuits and/or people partying. You probably have an inkling about what they are, but maybe you’re not very sure about whether you really want to go.

It’s okay, we’ve all been there. The first step in going to conventions for the first time is deciding whether they are for you, and what size convention you want to go to.

For those who aren’t quite sure what conventions are, Furry conventions are social meet-ups of varying sizes. They take place either in hotels or convention centers with hotels nearby and go on for 3-4 days, usually during a weekend. At conventions you’ll find things such as panels on various subjects about the furry fandom, comedy and musical shows, dances and games galore. Most conventions have an Artist’s Alley, where artists offer commissions, and the Dealer’s Den, where merchants sell all sorts of things furry.  People from all across the globe come to conventions, either to meet with friends, buy or sell furry merchandise, or just enjoy themselves in a place that lets them be furry without social stigma.

Furry conventions range from the small at under 1,000 people, midrange at 1-4,000 people, to the large with over 6,000 yearly attendees. That may seem like a lot of people, but it’s small for conventions in general.  Some comic conventions can reach over 20,000 people, and Dragon*Con, a convention for general fantasy/sci fi, attracts over 70,000 attendees a year. So furry conventions are relatively calm.

It’s no secret that many furries have a difficult time with large crowds. If you want to go to a convention but aren’t sure whether or not you can really handle the large groups of people, you may want to consider going to a furmeet first. These are much smaller groups, often put together by local furries. You can often find local furmeets on Facebook, or by googling your city and ‘Furmeet’. For smaller cities, you may need to look in neighboring, larger cities.

But if you want to jump right in, it can be easier for someone to blend in and get lost in the crowd at a convention. There’s less of a feeling that you need to be social like at the smaller furmeet, and people generally let you do your own thing. Furry conventions are also very welcoming and friendly places full of all sorts of activities throughout the entire weekend. Most conventions even feature panels for new attendees to help you get on your feet and figure out what sort of activities you want to take part in.

Now you might be asking, “But Ink, aren’t conventions better with friends?” Having been to conventions with friends and conventions without, my answer is a solid “sometimes.”  Friends certainly help by having people you know you can hang out with, but conventions are really what you make of them. If you go to conventions with the intention of making new friends and exploring new things, then you’ll likely have an awesome time with or without friends that you already know. If you go to conventions expecting to get invited to parties or hang with the popular furries, then you might want to reconsider why it is that you want to go.

That said, you will most certainly have an easier time at conventions with friends. I strongly recommend asking around before deciding what convention to attend, to see if you have any friends either in the area of a convention or friends that go to that convention regularly. It is especially good to have a sort of convention mentor, someone who’s been to the convention before and who is willing to show you around.

Conventions are a challenge, but an exciting one! It’s a lot of effort to go to one and a lot of anxiety that you may need to work through if it’s your first.  In the end it’s worth it.  Everyone goes for different reasons, and I welcome anyone who has been to a convention before to share the reasons they started going to conventions in the comments below.

Still interested in going to a convention?  Come back next week and I’ll walk you through the most important parts: setting up hotel rooms and registration!