Furry Connection North closes after six-year run
Michigan furry convention Furry Connection North, has announced its closure due to the retirement of key senior staff members.
In a statement, chairman Gir Tygrin detailed the group's struggle to deal with the growth of the organization, and their ultimate decision that the amount of work needed to allow FCN to continue to exist and "not change its core mission":
[…] would be unrealistic and would potentially compromise the integrity of the event.
The organization's supplies and funds are to be donated to other events and charities; the latter have already received $21,299.67 from this year's charity fundraising efforts.
FCN was first held in 2008 with 372 attendees, and attracted 1,259 this year. It had banned minors from registering in 2013 over the "serious burden" of ensuring parental consent.
Full statement follows . . . See also: Photos from FCN 2008, 2010 and 2013 (fursuit group shot)
When the staff of Furry Connection North started the event we had a plan to do a series of five conventions. Starting in 2008 with our first hotel in Ann Arbor, FCN endeavored to create a new and different convention experience focusing on creating a party atmosphere instead of the more traditional panel-and-event-focused furry con. Quite quickly, our event grew faster than we ever intended. In only our second year, we were forced to move to a larger venue; our attendance went from about 350 that first year to more than 1200 in 2013. That amount of growth in only 5 years is quite staggering and says that we were creating an event that the furry community enjoyed. However, as the years progressed, we discovered it was increasingly difficult to contend with that amount of growth.
Despite having a 5 year plan, due to the event’s popularity we decided to add a 6th year. Following FCN 2013, we started to evaluate what changes would need to be made to allow FCN to continue to exist and not change our core mission. In the process of evaluating those changes, some of the senior staff decided that the amount of work needed would be unrealistic and would potentially compromise the integrity of the event. At this point multiple members of the senior staff decided that they wished to retire instead of continue with the event. Upon further evaluation from the staff it was decided that it would be best to discontinue the event instead of change what it was.
It is with great sadness that I must announce that Furry Connection North will not return for a 2014 year. My staff and I are all very proud of the convention that we have put on for the last 6 years. We all feel that it was the absolute best event that we could have made. At this time Furry Connection North will be dissolving and donating our remaining supplies and funds to other events and charities. Thank you very much to all of those who attended and helped make FCN great.
Update (Sep 4): Discussion on MichiganFurs.com
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What I get from this is that they were running a party, but it got too big and started being more stress than it was worth. Which is fair enough. 372 was pretty big for a party, let alone a thousand; and nobody should feel forced to run a fan event.
The event's public filings always noted the same three or four directors. Perhaps with a few more in the core group they could have made it through, or at least had some people to pass it on to if they didn't want to.
I had a good time at the FCNs I went to, and I'm glad that Gir, Nik and everyone else behind the event ran it for so long.
For Michigan furs, it sucks, of course. They'll have to trek to MFF and AC for the "big con" experience. Vix mentioned Great Lakes Fur Con to be held in Grand Rapids next February, but it's unlikely to attract the crowds that FCN did - and probably couldn't deal with them if it got them.
Some people are trying to organize a one-night farewell party at the hotel.
I have never been to FCN, but as a veteran of s-f fandom's conventions since the 1958 Worldcon, I have had the impression for a long time that one of the major differences between s-f conventions and Furry conventions is that most of the s-f conventions like the Philcon in Philadelphia, the Baycon in San Jose, the OryCon in Portland, the Bubonicon in Albuquerque, the Loscon in Los Angeles, etc., are incorporated or are run by longstanding local s-f clubs. When fans on their committees grow tired or are forced to gafiate, they are replaced by other fans. There are Furry conventions like this, of course -- Further Confusion is run by Anthropomorphic Arts & Education, Inc. (AAE); Midwest FurFest by Midwest Furry Fandom, Inc.; Anthrocon by Anthrocon, Inc.; CaliFur by FENEC Adventures; Megaplex by PLEx, Inc.; EuroFurence by Eurofurence e.V. -- but too many popular and long running Furry conventions have been run by the same fans who, when they get tired or in personal trouble, simply cancel the convention, no matter how many other fans are willing to step in and keep them going. ConFurence in Southern California which was immediately replaced by CaliFur; Conifur Northwest in Seattle which was replaced within a couple of years by RainFurrest; and now Furry Connection North in Detroit. Annual Furry conventions that are not incorporated should think about incorporating, or at least having some procedure set up to replace original con committee members who retire.
Another difference is that the s-f conventions don't have lots of Fursuiters, of course.
Furry Convention North was incorporated a Michigan nonprofit since the beginning, and filed federally as a nonprofit, too. It's just that they couldn't find anyone within the organization to run it when their leaders chose to step down.
Many organizations, not just furry conventions, have a hard time making that first transition from their founders. Often those serving as staff are not suited or willing to lead, and you need to bring in someone from outside. For some events, the board is separate from the convention leadership, which helps with this but has its own issues.
The furry conventions you list are not run by general furry clubs, though. Those organizations, whether designated as clubs or charities, were created primarily to run their events; many have static leadership. So, your point is valid, and may apply to many furry conventions.
Personally, this is a terrible shock. I normally shy from superlatives, but FCN was my favorite furry convention, bar none.
Having said that, the con's good judgment probably played a big role in making it excel. The decision to say "no more" must have been difficult, and I applaud FCN's board for making it.
Thanks for all the great times.
I get the impression that this goes back to the sabotage of Gir Tygrin's car.
People thought they were being funny, and they vandalized the chair's car. The chair and his partner began reconsidering the type of event they were putting on and the behavior of the attendees . Many people in furry responded with things chastising them for being unable to take a joke. I watched one fur insist that this behavior was common and expected between friends.
And now fast forward, and the directors all resign en masse and none of the senior staff members want to continue.
That says to me burn out reigned, and nobody wanted to be next year's target for "playful pranks between friends."
Actually, I think that was quite a peripheral issue. That's not to say that shenanigans like this wouldn't make the final decision easier, but to the best of my knowledge that had no influence on the decision that was made.
From my friends up in the area, that called this then, that was a pretty darn big issue. And the fact that they were getting grief from local 'friends' for not taking a joke. "Come on, it was made to wash off." Back before this they were begging me to come. After the incident, they were like "Hold off on the plane ticket for a few months."
Again , could have been a side event, but for the entire senior staff to get burnt out at once? That says a lot about what is going on at the convention. There are a lot of people besides Nik and Gir that turned down this con.
Also saw your blog post, agree 100%.
Well just to be safe I'd say if you like a con don't mess with the con chair's wheels.
Their sanity however, of what little they have, is of course fair game.
It sounds more like they wanted to focus on it being one big party and not necessarily a convention. There is a difference between the two, I know we like to call our big party's conventions, but conventions do have a business aspect to them as well.
The things with parties is that they get hard to sustain when they become massive, they are harder to control in the aspects of keeping the mob from becoming a bit more unruly. Or wrecking your car.
One could joke that it's more that there isn't anything ELSE to do in Michigan and that's the reason why the convention was so successful, but on a serious note it was probably the laid back nature of it all. There are many furs who go to conventions and it's just as much a job than it is a party. So typically I would recommend two cons. One for business, one for winging it.
Unless you're some ungodly prude such as myself who has fun while not doing those activities that are expected of a party.
When you start reaching the thousands though it starts to get trickier to run it as just a party con. That's why they were saying they couldn't sustain their original objective with these numbers. That and, as they said, they originally didn't plan to let it go past 5 years anyway.
I know Nik and 2 had some sort of falling out before 2 left for Cali, at least one can now brag that he had part of running a convention that grew successful instead of dying on arrival. You know, just to keep that fox and bird rivalry going (if they hadn't made amends after all these years that is).
the fun has to end sometime and burnout of key folks is only to be expected when you run a job with no pay and tons of hard work plus all the abuse you could ever imagine for free ;).
Classy that they retired rather then wreck the con. Sure they can somehow find a few folks to take over but who wants the job and all its headaches?. Are any of the folks complaining hat it shut down willing to work as say a chair or senior programming head with all it entails?. Vegas bookies would probably weigh that with a heavy no. Gir and folks did a hell of a fine job and should be praised not torn down or sniped at.
It is always SO easy to claim you could have helped, or offered funding, or even say you can do a better job but until you do its just puffing hot air. If we want another FCN then WE had better step up to the plate with a boatload of cash and hard work, and do it. The fact folks are bitching and the ashes of the con are still warm is rather rude to the good work they did for us for 6 long hard years.
I have nothing but admiration they lasted as long as they did, granted I am of course *biased* since I worked cons for 30 years and chair one, staff several others, but it is true. Hard work might be it's own reward but sadly we all know in the end most of us want cash for or work..so expecting unlimited fun is just petty. Others are free to revive the con and just may do so, but WE better lend a paw to help or else we are just showing all we wanted was fun fun fun and no work work work.
Gaia bless all for 6 fun years
Chaircritter for Furnal Equinox
Amen. Thanks for dropping in.
Thanks. Had to say what I said and mean it. Lately a few too many of the fandom are muttering about the rising costs of going to a con but forget they do not have to go at all. It is only with hard work a pile of bucks someone has to risk to get one off the ground, and continued infusions of sweat, blood, and greenbacks to keep it going.
I just hope Gir and friends can relax knowing they did right well for most of us and the few snarky comments are I hope just the small few that want a lifelong party. I for one would love to see it reborn of course but distance would make on site help limited although other help can be offered of course.
Gaia bless one and all
ChairCritter for Furnal Equinox
it's a shame to see it go. I loved FCN I was there 3 years and was the most fun I had in a long time
This makes me really sad honestly ): It's always sad to see a furcon go, but it seems like it was for the best. No one should be forced to runt hat stuff and it's better it die strong and good than live and come crashing down horribly
"im princess fucking furry celestia and my goddamn frilly ass wings flying up high into the magestic sky and yiffing the haters"-Ruby
There's now discussion about moving IndyFurCon to FCN's Spring slot (which would get it away from Anthrocon).
The calendar slot (and, indeed, the same hotel!) is being eyed by the proposed Motor City Furry Con.
(Sorry for the late reply, but since I attended FCN in 2011 I thought I'd chime in with my thoughts)
I read Gir's explanation on FCN's website, and I was disappointed to find out that FCN was designed to be a 5 year convention. I never saw that on the con's website, unless it was buried in the fine print.
Gir's explanation sounded like FCN was a victim of it's own success. To handle the growing attendance, FCN would have to move out of the Sheraton Novi, which was in a good location and a super-friendly hotel to all us attendees. They let fursuiters goof off in the lobby, buy lots of alcohol at the bar and make as much noise (within reason) as we wanted to.
And FCN probably couldn't afford giving sponsors free beer and food while keeping the close-knit party atmosphere in a bigger hotel. FCN would have wound up being just another big furry convention and not the special event they intended it to be.
So I can understand why Gir and his staff ended FCN, but it's still a huge loss to our fandom. I think it will become a legendary con, oh the stories that could be told!
I'm glad Motor City Fur Con is taking FCN's place and I hope the fun in Novi will continue next year.
You never tell congoers things like that. If the convention attendees knew it was the last year, they'd tear the place apart. Cons that have done that in this fandom in the past (or have let the attendees know its the last year in the hotel) have ended up having to pay for massive amounts of vandalism as furs took souvenirs (like room number signs, fixtures, etc.)
Can you cite some examples of this occurring? While I haven't witnessed a final year announcement, I've seen three instances of a convention moving to a new hotel where it was announced at the closing ceremony the final year at the old hotel, and in none of the three instances am I aware of there being any vandalism or souvenir gathering.
Yeah, it happened at MFM when it was leaked that it was going to a new hotel, it happened at MWFF, and it happened at AC. It also has happened in quite a few science fiction cons and other conventions in other genres.
I was at that MFM in 2009 where Chairman Tyger Cowboy announced at closing ceremonies that MFM was moving to a new hotel. They showed a nice video about the new hotel and the news was overwhelmingly accepted by attendees. I never heard any word of any vandalism after the con was over.
When vandalism happens at a con, it's because someone or a group got drunk and damaged something, or thought trashing their room or stealing room numbers was a fun way to "get even" with the hotel for breaking up their room party. Not because the con was moving to a new hotel next year.
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