Con Report: CanFurence 2023
Recently I attended CanFurence 2023 in Ottawa, Ontario. It was a good time! Previously I'd gone in 2016 for its first year, then later in 2021 and 2022. There's a really good established core of staff and volunteers that make it happen.
It's been growing at a decent pace, now with 1107 people, up from 863 last year, and it's the fourth-largest Canadian furry con. The cons up here are in two clusters. March is when Furnal Equinox and VancouFur happen; while Fur-Eh, CanFurence, Wild Prairie Fur Con and Camp Feral are all during July and August. We also may soon have another camping con, Camp Mani-Toebeans.)
CanFurence is currently at the Delta, a 20-some storey hotel on the west side of Ottawa's downtown. It's next to one of the city's O-Train (LRT) stations - which would be great if the trains were working. Both this year and last, mechanical problems have closed it down, requiring the use of shuttle buses. Not too troublesome, but it helped to know in advance. For drivers, there's an underground parking lot. Best moment down there: someone with a "BLEAT" license plate from Quebec finding a "BLEAT" license plate from Ontario.
Restaurant options and meals
Although centrally located, restaurants are few. Most places nearby are only open Monday to Friday for lunch, to serve government civil servants. Still, good meals were had at a nearby bar-and-grill, a Thai/Vietnamese fusion place, and for a cheaper option, a McDonald's. A vegetarian friend found a little sushi place and also East Indian options about a 15-minute walk away. Still, to avoid travelling far, I paid for a higher reg level because it came with a shirt and some meals.
Most of the con is on the hotel's first, third and penthouse floors. It felt like there was slightly less hallway seating this year. The second floor, not officially conspace but great as a general "zoo" with tables and chairs, had over half of those removed. The hotel had constructed a new wall to extend a lounge, which was closed off. Still, the front lobby on the ground floor retained all of its seating, and was a wonderful place to hang out the entire time. And the gaming room on the third floor (run by Zets and crew) had lots of tables and chairs, and it was always open to people hanging out, for gaming, drawing, or just needing a break. I had a good game of Mysterium up there.
The hotel's front entrance (click to enlarge) - Photo by Sabbbatmapix
This year there were dances on Thursday night, and since I'd pre-registered, I picked up my badge in advance. CF required proof of vaccination, and masks were required. Friday morning, the registration line was so long, that a lot of the newcomers weren't able to get into the "Your First Con" panel. And then the line to get into the Dealer's Den got pretty big too! By mid-afternoon on Friday, the opening day chaos had largely sorted itself out. There were two or three emotional support dogs that were thankfully well-behaved enough to not go running around.
I did my usual "History of Furry" panel; being early on Friday, it only had about a dozen people - still, that made for a very casual atmosphere, and there were good discussions. It's always interesting to guess about where the fandom might go, but since we're still in the present, it's hard to know what will stay relevant. Last year, the threat of NFTs loomed large— then stopped being an issue. This year, AI is looming large. Then there's the slow collapse of social media sites that our fandom relies on, so it feels like it's taking more work to discover new furry creators, if you can even find where they've set themselves up online.
There were many panels missed, on various topics: pins, Pokemon, Furbies, crochet, music production, etc. A lot of furry fans seem to have taken up photography over the course of the Covid pandemic. Bcre8tve ran his "Investing 101" panel again - I went to that last year, and it was exactly what I needed as a beginner. The Genderverse Social was up in the Penthouse again, and it's been really successful, they're now organizing mini-events outside the con.
Of the panels I did attend, several of the con staff from Fur-Eh ran "Cutthroat Artist", inspired by Cutthroat Kitchen. Artists had to draw fursonas while sabotaging each other. One artist had to guide someone else's arm who was holding their pen. One artist had to look in a hand mirror while drawing. One sketchbook was teetering on top of a ball.
There were several main stage acts, the dance competition, and "Child of the Revenge of the Vengeance of Burning Down the Con" - this year's name for Feli's charity fundraising panel, where the participants experience his hot sauces, including new experimental concoctions. This year's charity was Ottawa Paw Pantry, for whom we raised $11,638 CDN ($8,600 USD). Lots of items in the charity auction were going for over $100! My donation this year was a copy of "Can I Pet Your Werewolf".
The Saturday night dance (click to enlarge) - Photo by Riley Winters (@Horsefur)
One of my favourite panels was "Furry or Not?" in which we looked at over 150 slides of characters from outside furry fandom, and then voted on whether they were furry or not. Sometimes we had to defend our choice - almost any argument was considered valid. But man, there were a lot of tough choices and disagreement. We had little pieces of coloured paper to represent "Yes" and "No" votes. We could have really used a third vote for "Technically yes, but I hate it".
And I always attend the Improv panel; it was extremely silly as usual! These improv events here, at Furnal, and at Feral all trace back to my teaching sessions with the Toronto furries back in the late 1990s. There's always new things to learn - this year there were two games I wasn't familiar with. Our hosts were Eloediel, Gallagher and Letty. Letty was a new addition, and wow, what a stage presence! He'd travelled to CanFurence from someplace in the U.S., which had taken 30 hours by bus! Yowch. And he was one of the dance DJs! I didn't go into the dances, but everyone who went seemed pretty pumped afterwards.
Guests of Honour
The guests of honour this year were Ookami Kemono, Soryane, and Feli of Dark Bunny Sauces, who in the past was also con chair of What The Fur. If you ever get the chance to try out his sauces, they're pricier than grocery store brands, but they're really good! Some are more liquidy, some are thicker, some are mild, and some are crazy hot. At cons, he usually provides a small selection for tasting. For those who don't like heat, I can personally recommend Barbecued Beaver. "I love the hint of cinnamon!", I stated, before I was informed there was actually no cinnamon in it. This year I bought, but have not yet opened, Lounging Leopard (orange) and Audacious Axolotl (adobo style).
Room parties, I tend to not get invited to those, though I did get to hang out with my friends Pyat and Jenora, and we exchanged several oddball videos. Pyat and I escaped the con to visit Ottawa's Byward Market, on a quest for poutine and beaver tails. I wish we'd had more time to look around. There was quite a lot going on in the city - a busker event right near the hotel, a ribs event by city hall, and a fireworks show on Saturday night. A group of fursuiters walked over to Canada's parliament buildings, an annual trek (if the weather cooperates). There were 359 fursuit tags handed out, but there were definitely more suiters than that. A lot of young folks in partials, and they put so much glee and energy into them!
The Parliament fursuit walk (click to enlarge) - Photo by KingRagnarok
Closing ceremonies announced that the Delta would again be CF's home in 2024, on August 2-4. There's a bit of long-term concern over what will happen when we out-grow the Delta. They've been really good to us - look at the letter they wrote for other hotel guests during a previous year! Still, space-wise, I'm told that in Ottawa it's difficult to find a larger venue attached to a hotel. There are other convention spaces around the city, but they're way too big for what the con currently needs. Time will tell?
CanFurence had two con chairs this year, BT-Armistice and Conreeaght. After asking if anyone had a BlueSky invite, Conreeaght announced that as of the next board meeting, he'll be stepping down. No drama behind that - he had always meant it to be a temporary position, and will continue as part of con staff in other roles. BT-Armistice promptly declared the next board meeting would be delayed until 2027. CanFurence 2024's guests of honour will be Grace Kraft and Aver the Dorbley, with the theme "As Seen on TV".
Finally, the con ended with the Dead Dog— er, Dead Bunny party, which stayed very active until midnight. I was amazed at the amount of energy some people still had. Goodbyes were said, and that was the end of a lovely con. I definitely hope to attend next year - although my heart, calendar and wallet feel divided. I haven't attended Furnal since 2014 (I meant to attend in 2020, but the pandemic happened), and I'd really like to go to Fur-Eh again. They're going to be in a new hotel!
A huge thank you to everyone I got to hang out and talk with - you know who you are! Hopefully see you next year!