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Furry conventions get bigger in Texas - outgrowing California

Edited as of 22:00
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Texas Fiesta_0.jpgDeep in the fuzzy heart of Texas in February 2018, Furry Fiesta had convened at a brand new facility in Dallas to compensate for their continued growth in attendance. When the festivities came to a close, it was announced that 3,866 were in attendance. This number ups its ranking in the list of most populous furry conventions, it now being the fifth largest.

It replaces Further Confusion, one of the original large furry conventions from the early years of furry. The convention from San Jose, California has always had a strong following. It’s pilot year in 1999 saw it as the third largest furry convention behind the first major gathering of Confurence, another Californian convention, and the soon to be leader of the pack Anthrocon, which was in the Philadelphia area at that time.

Further Confusion is currently in a creepingly slow decline since peaking in 2014 at 3560. As of 2018 they are now at 3415, which is still higher than they were the year before they reached their peak. This stagnation in growth can be more likely contributed to factors of seasonal competition from other growing conventions rather than the Californian convention’s own actions. Furry Fiesta, being among them, which occurs only a month after it. But also Biggest Little Fur Con (Reno, Nevada) which is geographically within 4 hours San Jose, both contribute to some stiff competition for the long running event.

With the announcement of Furry Fiesta topping the long running San Jose convention, it marks the first time since the dawn of the furry convention that California is no longer in the top five. Being infamous rival states, proud Texans would have gloated for being one to take down the west coast state from the board, if such news were to have struck the ear of one. Within the fandom, however, furries tend to be a bit more neutral to geography. We’re spread around the world and tend to attend closer conventions, but will travel great distances to attend some of the larger ones.

This leaves some questions up in the air for the future. Will we see the leading conventions solidify their positions and draw growth away from their competitors? Will Further Confusion begin to grow again, or maintain its healthy and comfortable size? One thing is for certain. As the torch passes on to the lone star state we should always remember the flagship conventions of California and how they pushed to bring the eccentric and wonderful culture of furry into the limelight at the time when it was a greater risk to do so.

Dronon's Note: Squawk!


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BLFC is definitely the main reason why FC isn't growing according to locals I've asked. It's a modest drive from the SF Bay (easier than going to Califur), it gets volunteers from here and it isn't too far apart in the season. I heard an opinion that it's totally cool to have FC be more of a "local con". With the concentration of furries around here it should stay nice and stable if it's well managed.

That's cool because growing isn't the point, so I think "competitors" is a fun way to look at them but only really means how many friends you can spend time with. You can't do everything at a big con, but it's fun to try.

That's why it's also cool that San Jose has PAWcon, I'm not sure many other places are keeping multiple cons going at once. This one's pretty under the radar so it seems to be getting mostly Cali furs, but again the nice concentration locally means it's low effort to go to one then go to another just 2 months later.

Just guessing about growth happening in Nevada and Texas, it must have something to do with the SF Bay Area having some of the most expensive costs anywhere. Same with NYC, it has some furs but very little activity as far as I know, just a few small meets.

In San Francisco itself, there are still fun and popular meets happening, but since I was organizing some back around 2012-2014, there has been a lot of movement in and out with all the gentrification. Frolic Party for example lost its original venue due to the landlord situation, although luckily was so popular it got another with ease. Some of the public events are now being organized with people meeting at parking garages instead of apartments - we're doing a chartered streetcar fursuit outing next month and then the street fair season starts soon after.

Buzzfeed asked me about the Bay Area gentrification in an interview last week - I said that it's had downsides, but upsides too, there's heavy overlap with furries and the techies who are moving in.

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Con growth can be weird. What The Fur in Montreal had a really slow growth curve, and Furfright deliberately capped themselves at around 1500 - not just out of space concerns, but they liked the energy at that size, without having to add to organizational angles. I don't know if its sucessor Furpocalypse has a cap but their numbers have remained pretty stable.

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PAW-Con was proof (to me anyway) that you can have a downright tiny convention and have it be a lot of fun if you plan for it as such correctly.

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Everything's bigger in Texas anyway.

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Further Confusion's recent cons have not been helping its reputation. They've had no GOH for the past couple of years. The programming is treated as an afterthought. The arbitrary juried system to pick dealers, the split dealer's room and no real artist's alley doesn't make it a very artist-friendly con. Even the con book was lackluster. It's like they don't even care any more, and no doubt the con will continue to shrink.

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You cannot have constant growth. That's probably why economies become such a mess. Constant growth is unsustainable for anything. >3000 people for a convention is very good. You're talking bigger than almost anything outside of the US. If that then maintains a constant size then that will be good. If we could just get politicians and businesses to drop growth in favour of sustainability we'd be all set.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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You're talking about two different things. A con needs growth or at least sustainable numbers or it can't survive. A corporation can eat the cost if it loses money, a con can't. Furry cons are none profit entities that survive on a year to year basis, shrinking means less money for the next year which means the con has to cut back on what it can do, which further shrinks its attendance. Not that there is any risk of that for most cons, the fandom has seen impressive growth overall in the past few years. Furry is on the up swing and cons are just going to get bigger at bigger, at least for now.

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That's what I said. We shouldn't worry if things don't continue to grow indefinately, we should let them grow to a sustainable size. The size of a convention will be limited by other conventions, location, fan base etc. But if the survival of the con is based on growing numbers every year then there is a problem.

Bigger cons are also not necessarily better cons.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Furry has got a long way to go before we start hitting the logistical limits of convention centers.

San Diego Comic con has started to hit that limit. They're at about 160,000 attendees.

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Sure but there are lots of other issues that arise before that limit. At a convention that size you have a completely different feel and atmosphere. Your chance to actually meet guests is extremely limited. You can't have everyone (or even most) attend the opening and closing ceremonies. You can't have everyone in a group photo. A fursuit parade would take forever. You can't have everyone stay at the same hotel. I know people who don't attend Eurofurence now because of the hotel issue. For most, it's just an annoyance. For people who want a dealers' den table, not having a room at the hotel just does not work.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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I think the reason that hotels "fill" so quickly for furry conventions when they don't for other nerd conventions; and this is ONLY a theory mind you, I have no statistics to back this up, is that I believe we have a higher percentage of individuals who are socially 'anxious'.

What this means is that for them, they may buy a hotel room and keep it to themselves, or just a pair of people, instead of filling all four slots allowed.

I've heard plenty of stories of furries just buying a hotel room for one or two for additional privacy space. This probably happens at many a con, but I think for furries it may be a bigger thing.

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TFF might have some numbers on this; I seem to recall there being a 'how many people are in your room' question during registration process.

Count me among the 'get my own room' furs, a few cons with lousy roomies popped that bubble.

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Socially anxious or just being a grown up? I think rather than sharing a hotel room with people wedged in like sardines, it's better to have your own bed, not wait for showers, it's not such a big deal for private time etc. It's more fun to have a room for 1 or 2 and get to sleep better. Stuffing rooms seems like a cheap student type thing? Nothing wrong with that but con going isn't the cheapest anyways.

I don't believe room occupancy would be a factor on hotels filling fast, it seems like a supply-demand thing, if more people need rooms hotels can accommodate more. But at what cost. I suspect these cons are conservative (location, choice of what hotel to use, and how many rooms to guarantee by contract) based on them being relatively shoestring budgets and so strongly based on volunteering and donating without sponsorship and commercial interest.

Best to ask people who are part of budgeting and making contracts. Signing your name onto a six figure obligation to fill rooms means not overestimating how many you project to fill. Getting another hotel = you aren't just raising a 4-figure attendance by 100. And these attendees aren't subsidizing the con to book out rooms like with high membership fees, and dealer tables are also so cheap they're sort of subsidized by the con not the table fees. So hotels fill fast and attendees who miss out are just not getting the discounted block price but can still find regular accommodation.

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It's almost like a good chunk of the fandom are college students. Crazy how that works.

You say "Nothing wrong with that" but make sure to throw in that "seems like a cheap student type thing" dig.

I prefer my own room and I can afford that luxury, but I'm somewhat envious of those who take on roommates whether by choice or otherwise. I'm bad at socializing as it is and as much as this fandom has helped me put myself out there I don't think I'm ready for a roommate, but I wish I was.

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We weren't talking about those furries. Off topic dude, we were talking about ones who get single rooms.

There's a theory up there about social anxiety among them and I gave a different one. That's not a dig.

Believe it or not older people go to cons too. Some of them work full time and like getting sleep on their vacations for quality over cheapness.

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That maybe true for Furry and SF cons but not for many Anime cons. Kumoricon, my local anime cons went from 419 to over 8000. To give a little perspective in Seattle has 25,000 atendees.

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It's going to be interesting to see what happens to Furry Fiesta's attendance next year; there was a lot of grumbling about parking, elevators, and also the lack of snacks in the con suite. The hotel is likely to blame for the latter and there isn't much that can be done about the first two inconveniences. TFF 2019 is also being bumped to March next year.

While furcons are pretty small potatoes compared to even anime cons, there is a practical limit to growth. Most congoers, especially fursuiters, would like to be as close as possible to the venue or stay in the con hotel. Based on feedback from attendees I've spoken with, a theory I've entertained for Anthrocon's slowed growth is the lack of convenient hotel rooms by the convention center, fur what that's worth. Will a similar fate befall BLFC or MFF? Time will tell.

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I foresee BLFC hitting that issue long before MFF. The hotel layout of the region was brought up in an interview with the BLFC chair 2 years ago about the Grand Sierra being isolated as a hotel, and only has so much room for con goers. Especially when the hotel has a vested interest in attracting gamblers to the casino, which furries are apparently not all that into.

MFF, it just started having main things in the actual convention center this last year. So they have pleanty of expansion room to start putting less traffic pressure on the Hyatt. And when this occurs most of the hotels connected to the con center will become more viable. In fact, the Hilton becomes more viable to those in the Dealer's Den then the Hyatt since it's closer.

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Based on the con feedback panel I attended most of these problems should be resolved next year. Keep in mind this was the first year at a new hotel, problems were bound to crop up. Hell, the hotel restaurants despite being warned how ravenous furries can be ran out of food on the first day. I expect TFF to pass 4,000 attendees easily next year based on its growth rate.

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I have 2019 projected to be around 4,400.

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I left before the feedback panel, but it's good to know they have plans. I may take the AmTrak next year; I've always wanted to take a train trip.

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That happened at NordicFuzzCon's hotel buffet, too. It's similar to the Arrow Air crash - using an inappropriate average, either for per-person consumption, or how many tickets you think will be sold or consumed on a certain day.

Fortunately it's the kind of thing which can be resolved relatively easily, if not immediately (I saw Pinky having a long chat with the hotel as soon as it became clear there was a problem), but for a first time hotel it can be an issue.

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I wonder of the growth of BLFC and Furry Fiesta has to do with the novelty of a new convention. Likewise, Further Confusion decline has to do with newer local cons.

One problem that bothers me is the sameness of many fur cons. I do not see any difference between FC and Anthrocon and Furlandia as to the type of programming. While small Furlandia at times had more diverse paneling like Into to Steampunk. I think of attending a lager regional cons and I more likely to attend a new con like BLFC than Further Confusion.

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Dunno if I'd call it new; this was Texas Furry Fiesta's tenth year. It also has the benefit of being one of only two furcons in Texas, with Alamo City Furry Invasion just getting started last year. There's lots of fuzzers in this here state. ;)

I haven't been to enough furcons to comment on sameness, but TFF has been well-run so far, so word-of-mouth likely helps bring more folks in.

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