The Biggest Little Fur Con of the West
In its 4th year of operation, Biggest Little Fur Con lived up to its name. When the count was tallied, BLFC 2016 had set another record, drawing 3,651 attendees; making it the largest furry event in the Western United States, and the third-largest furry convention in the world.
A fertile desert
One of the strengths this convention has going for it is its location. Nevada is known as a tourist trap state, with Reno and Las Vegas having a strong hotel and entertainment industry at its foundation. Many cities which furry conventions are hosted in don’t account for tourism first and foremost. Even if there wasn’t a furry convention going on, there’d still be plenty to do in these adult playgrounds.
For instance, the Grand Sierra Resort has a huge swath of activities unrelated to the convention. The convention website lists these activities, and whether they allow fursuits on-site. These include bowling, go-karts, mini golf, and a casino - which, of course, doesn’t want fursuits; they don’t need you hiding chips in your muzzle!
The draws come with disadvantages, though; many summer parties in the region make our gatherings look tame and minuscule in comparison. Burning Man and the Hot August Nights classic car extravaganza limit any chance at a summer block. This, in essence, why the convention has limited itself to the spring; but the lack of competition from larger winter or summer furry conventions may have led, in part, to its success.
Being a more tourist-oriented area, weekend bookings are also in higher demand than in business-oriented hotels hosting furry conventions, which usually have higher demand during the weekdays. Hotels focusing on weekend tourism need a good swath of rooms kept open for non-furry tourists, to ensure they aren’t strangling themselves of their dollars as well.
The director of operations said “this convention has grown so fast it has stretch marks”. Those have been a test and testament to those on the ground: from the heads of staff to the newest volunteer. When asked about the challenge faced by this unprecedented growth, con-chair Tyco explained “we've been forced to gain ten years of con running experience in four years, and that has been by far our biggest challenge.”
Love and dedication to creating their own experience has seen them through these challenges. The volunteer-to-attendance ratio keeps those who work on staff at the convention busy. BLFC is looking into ways to increase volunteer headcount through means such as better benefits. Tyco also plans to improve volunteer and staff organization to ensure that those they do have are used more effectively in future years.
It is on the backs of those that volunteer their time that allows the convention to continue to grow and thrive, and it is their love and dedication that the con chair credits most with the continued success of Biggest Little Fur Con.
Can growth be sustained?
While the attendance has gone through this growth spurt, like most cartoon characters who start to grow uncontrollably, one is left to wonder when they’re going to bump their head upon the ceiling.
One major issue that will limit further expansion is that the main convention hotel is relatively isolated from any surrounding hotels. A shuttle service would be needed to for any runoff hotels. BLFC’s 2016 attendees already took up around half of the Grand Sierra Resort’s hotel rooms. While BLFC can continue to grow, it’s going to start to be a problem as the reserved block gets closer to the filling out the hotel.
The convention has considered pushing for a mid-week con in order to not press into the hotel’s weekend activity and to keep things affordable for attendees. This has, of course, met resistance as it would require working attendees to use more vacation time. This could slow down the convention’s future growth; but being such a well-received convention, dedicated fans may make the sacrifice to attend regardless.
There was no indication of anything drastic such as limiting attendance at this time, as previously implemented at conventions such as FurFright.
When Sierra Nevada Anime Fans Unite handed off the 112-person PawFur to its own dedicated staff in 2013, it’d be hard for them to anticipate that in a few short years it would grow beyond their own SNAFU anime convention - breaking furry fandom's own first-year attendance records. This shows an amazing dedication by the furries toward making their conventions an experience to draw in more fans.
Will this Nevada convention some day be able to catch up with the Eastern titans of Midwest FurFest and Anthrocon, both of which still have a heavy lead of a few thousand attendees on the biggest of the little fur-cons? Only time will tell. However, with dedication, creativity, and maybe a little bit of Lady Luck, anything is possible in the deserts of Nevada.