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Furry Weekend Atlanta has record-shattering year-to-year growth for 2024

Edited by GreenReaper, 2cross2affliction as of Fri 17 May 2024 - 21:04
Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (6 votes)

Furry Weekend Atlanta 2024 bedroom view, with kangaroo head Furry Weekend Atlanta continues its monstrous growth, smashing its prior record with a total of 15,021 attendees and raising $100,000 for their charity of Lost-n-Found Youth. This has solidified its position in the top three, and for the time being surpasses Anthrocon – that had a 2023 attendance of 13,641 – making FWA, for the next few months, the world's second-largest in-person furry convention.

The increase this year from last was 4,693 attendees. For perspective, the total attendance of Anthro New England this year was 4,482. So staff at the Atlanta convention this year had to take care of the total they handled in 2023, plus an Anthro New England-sized convention at the same time in 2024. The gathering has never desired further volunteers more.

It was also my first year in attendance, so I wanted to go over my experiences, the challenges, and the strengths of the convention.

The consequences of growth

An additional challenge came as FWA were unable to acquire Hyatt space for this year’s events. This caused a shift in the placement of events, particularly the markets (dealers den, artists alley) from the Hyatt to the Hilton. The shift caused quite a bit of duress amongst attendees, volunteers, and staff as the floor past the skybridge into the Hilton from the Marquis turned into a pseudo-roundabout to keep traffic flowing.

Popular items such as the Mystery Skulls had full venues that required tracking of attendees leaving to ensure they kept the room to acceptable capacity before allowing additional people in line to go in. The Moonlight Festival, the 18+ event space that has become FWA's convention-defining event, had crazy line lengths going around multiple floors and taking around two hours to get in at its start.

Ironically, a common choke point in conventions, registration, had little to no complaints on backups or long wait times. I had to go through the reg line about three times due to RFI issues, and I don’t think I spent more than twenty minutes in the registration lines in total.


Obviously the giant elephant in the room is the ability to get to and from hotel rooms via the elevators. The hotels are high-rise and taking the stairs is not a great option for anyone but the truly athletic. I attempted it myself in the Marquis from Atrium level to floor 36. It probably took almost an hour to do so, as I had to take some breaks. Need to work on cardio, for sure; it has been about a year since my last convention.

The Marriott hotel has four elevator banks that service different floor ranges; this, compounded with sporadic allowing of the use of the central hotel service elevators during peak times, caused confusion on etiquette and protocol, leading to exhaustion and sometimes aggravation among attendees.

Interestingly, as a person who partially fursuits, there was no priority given to people with costumes here. So it’s best to really not have reservations of “ruining the magic” going to this con and feeling free to take the head off if you have to wait in a queue. I ended up only costuming on Friday due to this, as costuming requires commitment to returning to the room at some point to change back. Therefore, planning a chunk of time to go to and from the room for whatever is necessary before going to this con is recommended.

Now, all conventions will have time needed to go to and from your room, but usually for Midwest Furfest and Anthrocon it’s the distance walking to your hotel’s elevator that takes the longest portion of the time if you’re not in the main hotel. Standing still makes humans who want to move quite agitated, so that’s why it can feel longer. Atlanta’s traversal time is spent moving vertically and not horizontally compared to its competitors.

A tale of two hotels

Other than the elevator situation, I found the layout of the main hotel space of the Marriott Marquis to be the best I have seen for the purposes of a large gathering space as far as hotels go. There are three major floors that are stacked upon one another. The Marquis, the Lobby Level, and the Atrium Level. For those of you familiar with Midwest FurFest’s Hyatt Regency, this would be similar except that you have a whole additional floor to work with. The contiguous square footage of each floor also seems a bit larger than Chicago’s Regency. Therefore, when just walking about without any particular goal in mind I found myself feeling less congested than when I went to MFF 2022, despite there being 1,500 fewer in attendance there.

And as a bonus, the 10th floor of the Marquis did not have any rooms but instead was yet another gathering place with tables and chairs that was effectively the zoo hang-out zone for people not necessarily trying to get to any particular event. MFF is kind of forced to have a portion of the main floor utilized for this purpose.

The Hilton, unfortunately, didn't take notes from its neighbor and instead had donut-like holes on every floor above the lobby. This caused the greatest chokepoints of the convention and was certainly not designed with thousands of people moving through it in mind. The hole past the skybridge from the Marquis caused the most trouble. Once you got past those holes and to the dealer’s den, dining area, or gaming galleria past the main shaft, the layout did improve though.


Mystery Skulls concert, probably The one thing you’ll need to be wary of is that this certainly is a different city feel than other conventions. We are certainly guests in Atlanta, and the city has its struggles. There were reports of furs who parked their vehicles in the open lots finding their cars broken into, and windows smashed. One car even had its own adventure while its owner was at the convention when it was stolen and used on a heist before being recovered and returned to its owner. There was also a video of a furry in a suit trying to fend off a mugging that happened in front of an Italian restaurant a block from the hotel.

I also, for the first time, experienced being approached by a person in the main hotel claiming to be collecting for a charity, who probably was not. Thinking that it was the con’s charity, which also had the word Youth in it (so good social engineering on his part if that was intentional), I had given the man a $20. He then proceeded to continue to hound me for another few minutes trying to get more, showing me some random videos saying “I’m not tricking you” when I never made any accusation of such, and by his demeanor and desperation I had realized this was likely someone grifting off of the kindness of furries.

I simply shook his hand, looked him square in the eye, and said he’s doing good work and wished him well on his goals on helping those kids. And sure enough, he slipped away. In this way, if it was a deception, saying this will help throw some guilt about using kids to try and trick folks out of money; if not, then my statement would be genuine. Sometimes it’s best to play along and continue to act with kind naivete than to confront your suspicions.

While I have had experiences like this in Chicago when trying to get to the convention spaces on the subways, this is the first time it had happened in the main vicinity of a convention. Ironically, though I took the MARTA in, I had no such solicitation on the way to and from the airport. Just have awareness and utilize your peers to help keep one another safe and things will be fine. Also keep some cash in a place other than your wallet so if you are feeling charitable you can take it from there instead of exposing your wallet.

In spite of these kinds of reported situations, the area was dense with plenty of things to do and eat within a few blocks. Far denser than the Pittsburgh and Rosemont gatherings. Many furries visited the nearby aquarium, and it sounds like it will be a facility the convention will be utilizing directly in 2025 with a special event. The restaurants nearby outside the hotels, which I went to two, are also excellent and decently affordable. Note that given that this is Georgia, the number of options will go down on Sunday, so be sure to check hours before assuming they’ll be open.

As with all places, having awareness is key, and don’t let a handful of stories deter you from going somewhere you wish to go and experience things you wish to experience. These kinds of situations can happen in Pittsburgh or Chicago as well, even if it doesn’t get as much attention during those. Just maintaining awareness and taking appropriate ways to mitigate will improve your chances of not having your time ruined. Urban environments, like any other, require experience and understanding.


The most important thing to remember is when you see people go, “This is why I’ll never go to FWA”, they said that last year, and don’t make me have to tap the headline.

If you really like to dance to music and don't mind enjoying some adult night life, or enjoy gaming on a variety of platforms, I believe these are the strengths of this convention. The nonfiction panel I did had the most attendance out of any I've done so far, which is great; unfortunately I didn't have much time to visit other panels this year. The rooms are expansive, but the panels you get here will be similar to others and isn't itself a stand out.

If you do like to wander and hang with friends outside the hotel room, there was pretty ample space to do so, as long as you avoid the choke points such as the skybridge. I was able to never feel too "in the way", as I can at MFF from time to time.

Would I go again? Sure, if I had motivation to, despite partying not being my thing. I kind of think I like it slightly better than MFF in some ways. I'm not sure why. I think Anthrocon tries to be more contemporary and pushes for furry and its relationship with the public in Pittsburgh, with the parade being a staple of that goal. FWA does the opposite where it is unapologetically present in a city that can be a bit more detached and sometimes hostile to us tourists, the Moonlight Festival being a signifier of that adult and rebellious root.

In that light, MFF just kind of feels like it doesn't quite have an identity and falls somewhere in the middle. But FWA's identity, for better or for worse, is going to be why I think it will continue to go far as a convention.


Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (2 votes)

Given all the stories I had in my inbox about Anthrocon selling out in twelve minutes, I think there's a good chance it will at least give FWA a run for its money. And man, it's lots of money! I haven't been following the Form 990s as much as I used to in recent years, but I'd be surprised if these events aren't well into seven figures of turnover by now - as Midwest Furry Fandom is. Hopefully their staff and boards are up to the job of managing it - the recent pandemic was probably a good stress-test.

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Standard ticket prices were $85 even in early bird. That would make 1.25 million in revenue with that attendance rate even if there were zero sponsor badges sold and all were sold early bird.

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That would explain not just the crowding issues, but more drama being stirred up then usual from what I read. I guess when you youve got an extra 4600 attendees, a section of hotel space you cant use, and elevator issues, tensions are gonna rise and tempers will flare. Despite these drawbacks leading to a more mixed reaction, a lot of people seemed to have enjoyed it and have indicted they will likely be returning for next year. I just hope FWA will be better prepared when that comes, and likely expect an extra 1000 or so (maybe more?) for next years venue.

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (3 votes)

As for crowding issue, for some perspective, Dragoncon uses the same complex and had 70,000 attendees last year.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

The layout of the combined hotel convention spaces was such that I kept expecting to walk around a corner and run into David Bowie singing "How you turned my world you precious THING..."

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Honestly as far as confusing layouts the Sheraton Primere at Tyson's corner for Furthermore back a few years ago I recall had some strange characteristics where you needed to go from one floor to get to another part of another floor.

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FWA is a big reason why I’m in this fandom. It was my second con, in 2016 during Camp Furry Weekend. I was invited by a furry friend, who is one of my best friends now, as I came to the Marriott Marquis for the first time, I said WOW!! This wasn’t CaliFur anymore! I haven’t looked back - I’ve attended FWA each year since (except 2020, but I was featured on the FWA At-Home virtual con) and got my fursuit Joe Bear unboxed at FWA 19. As for this year’s Furry University 2, i had friends staffing and they were stretched thin!! You felt the 4600+ increase everywhere! I told friends that I will join FWA staff next year for FuturePunk. I love my favorite con so much, I will join the ranks. Hoping I can still be in front of line for the group photo :)!! I’m Glad you came to your first FWA!! Hugs - come to my Greymuzzle panel next FWA. Joe G Bear

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (2 votes)

Dragon*Con was my first convention, almost two decades ago now, and I was dazzled (and a bit stressed) by the vast number of people. It was fun to stand on the balcony and watch all the cosplayers milling about below. But Atlanta was a bit daunting--we had driven down and got there too late to get any dinner, so we ended up in a Hard Rock Cafe, which was just "wonderful" for our head-aches. We also got approached by a guy purporting to give directions but who was probably shaking us down for money.

We had met a group of our online friends there, and the next night we went to a pirate-themed restaurant for dinner--the place was a ship built indoors, with a moat full of alligators! Thank God we had chartered a bus to get us from the hotel to the venue because driving in Atlanta was a mind-boggling ant farm of traffic. The bus driver was confident, though...remember the scene on The Knight Bus from "Harry potter"--? It was kind of like that.

I've been to Anthrocon a couple of times now, and it can look empty even when it's busting with people. That's weird. Maybe I'm just not in the places where all those furries are hanging out.

Smaller conventions can be fun, too, but my own personal opinion is that if you've been to one con, you've kind of been to them all. Same vendors, same set-ups, same general vibe. It's the people who make the con-going experience fun.

Oh, and getting to wear a costume on a day other than Halloween.

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