Con Report: Tails and Tornadoes 2022
This year's Tails and Tornadoes convention, held at the Marriott Tulsa Hotel Southern Hills of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is only the third furry convention I've been to. Previous conventions I have attended were Oklacon 2004 and Anthrocon 2017, and I only made it all the way to Pittsburgh due to being nominated for an Ursa Major award and wanting to attend the awards presentation (I ended being late and missing the announcement of my category, but I lost anyway). Tails and Tornadoes, like Oklacon before it, had the advantage of being cheap and nearby, as I am a local Oklahoman.
As I live only an hour from Tulsa, I made the decision to just commute daily to the convention, as I calculated that the price of gas would ultimately be cheaper than staying at the hotel for me, not to mention cutting out the hassle of actually booking a room and possibly even finding a roommate for the stay. So, I have no idea how the late night atmosphere of the convention was, or the reality of the room situation there. The truth is, that part, the social aspects of convention going is just not for me, despite the fact that it seems a primary draw for just about everyone else. Hence my relatively low total life convention attendance.
A clumsy start
I had a bit of trouble getting my attendance badge the first morning, but this was very much my fault, not the con's. The convention rules were very explicit that attendees show proof of either vaccination for Covid-19, or at least offer proof that they were not contagious by a recent negative test result. I, of course, managed to forget my vaccination card at home, which made the hour long commute decision less desirable in hindsight. However, a fellow attendee pointed out that the Oklahoma health services website has an easy way to access immunization records, though I about managed to mess that up as well when I misspelled my own name typing it into the site.
Once I actually got my badge and could begin attending the convention for real, I didn't actually end up attending many panels or other more social events of the convention, for reasons previously stated. I did note that the actual number of panels at any given time were a bit on the low side, but the convention is still growing, and hopefully will become more robust in the future. Furthermore, as I had lead panels at the Anthrocon I attended, this was an aspect of the convention I could have conceivably helped with, though I wasn't exactly the most well attended panelist in that case.
The regular folk atmosphere
As I mostly did not take the opportunity to socialize, I did take the opportunity to observe. I had found out, watching the Fursuit Parade at Anthrocon, that I enjoyed watching the non-furries watching the furries. Despite the fact that Anthrocon has one of the most open relationships with it's non-furry host community of any major con, it was still very segregated from the outside world when compared to Tails and Tornadoes. Due partially to the fact that the convention occurred over the busy travel week of Labor Day, there were usually non-furries checking into the hotel, especially Friday. Due to the smaller space in general, the main convention space was right there next to the convention, and while obviously the curious were not given access to convention exclusive areas, there was large mingling of furry and non-furry. The non-furry reactions were mostly positive. The "non-positive" reactions weren't negative, either, but mostly just a lack of reaction, period. People were either excited by the spectacle, or they didn't seem to care. The hotel staff did a decent job explaining what was going on to those that asked, as well.
Of note was that a gospel concert unrelated to the convention was scheduled on Sunday morning, in a room that was right between the Dealer's Den and the Artist's Alley. Despite the awkward positioning and timing of the unrelated event, neither the furries nor the concert goers seemed overly perturbed, and just stayed out of each other's ways.
The furry folk atmosphere
Turning from the non-furries to the actual attendees, there were usually a collection of fursuits for the curious to have explained to them. For the furries not in suit, if anything, as a group I'd say we most resembled a group of attendees of some form of rock concert, though of a nebulous sub-genre that doesn't actually exist. Certainly did not seem to be ready for a gospel concert, anyway. Black was a predominant base color of t-shirts, though bright neon colors were often highlighted. Obviously, accessories in the form of personalized badges and backpacks covered in patches and pins were common. The classic ears and tails look, however, was not as common as it once was, especially the tails. Truth be told, I've always found it's a hard look to really pull off, though.
Attendees and dealers featured mostly original characters in their artwork and paraphernalia, as is only right. As far as mainstream characters did go, I found, both in the Dealer's Den and on the t-shirts and bumper stickers of con-goers, the most popular character was Loona of Helluva Boss, though given the nature of that show, it could be argued that she exists in a shadow realm somewhere between truly "mainstream" and truly "fandom created". Pokémon were very popular, though no one creature dominated, though the "Eeveelutions" as a group were well represented. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic still has a place, with yet another Luna being popular. DreamWorks Animation dominated it's mainstream rivals with a fair amount of Toothless the Night Fury popping up in booths.
I did see one representation of the Kung Fu Panda franchise's Master Tigress, which will provide my seque into the next topic I'd like to discuss, as it was an enamel pin that was one of the few pieces of merchandise in the main area of the Dealer's Den that required an I.D. to purchase. For the most part, the place was scrupulously clean, outside of the topless Tigress pin and perhaps some of Michele Light's saucier, tongue in cheek work (the link to Light's website shows way more provocative art than anything she actually displayed). Seeing as how I purchased both a copy of the Tigress pin and a print from Light, I don't want to come off as prudishly criticizing anything here. But I also took the opportunity to do some early Christmas shopping for my non-furry family, so it was nice that it also didn't feel like a den of debauchery.
That portion of the room was heavily cordoned off, and I never felt the need to enter, myself. That aspect was there if you wanted it, but was discrete. I will note with amusement that Patricia's, a chain of Midwest "erotic boutiques" with a recognizable earworm of a radio jingle, has it's Tulsa location near the convention hotel, so even the adult section of the Den was hardly the dirtiest thing on the block.
I did manage to actually socialize a bit despite my best efforts, finally meeting Cassidy the Civet after years of online interaction here at Flayrah. I also participated in her Survifur game panel, and finished fifth overall, so that was fun. I also enjoyed the fursuit dance competition, though I can't say I would make a very good judge of one.
Tails and Tornadoes is basically the only convention running that seems to have any kind of relationship with Flayrah, as con president Koori has submitted after con newsletters for all three of the times the convention was held. Which saves me from having to list the attendance records myself when I can just link to the source, which is nice. So, hopefully this con-report hasn't damaged that relationship in any way; I certainly enjoyed the con and plan on attending next year.