Pac Anthro Weekend weathers rough start to make newest West Coast furcon

by Patch O'Furr

On November 15-16, 2014, Pacific Anthropomorphics Weekend brought a second Furry convention to the San Francisco Bay Area.  PAW’s official attendance was 213.  It was the result of much hard work behind the scenes.

If only con organizing was always as serene as the palm trees on the website.

I’m sorry not to post pure sunshine here: I think it’s an OK time for honesty, shortly after the con.  Next year offers a clean slate.

Conflict came even before a con plan, in early 2014.  Staff changes with January’s Further Confusion con caused discord among watchers close to the action.  Like most things in life, it was complicated.  Sides were taken for private debates not qualified to air.  (It wasn’t all personal: a long-standing supporter was left frustrated by hotel union regulations, that couldn’t allow some volunteers to “work” for the event.)

A faction of former Fur Con supporters and friends acted to start a new convention.  It would compete to take Fur Con’s place.  Watchers knocked the “revenge con” plan, noting that a negative reason was a weak draw, diminishing positive reasons to persist.  It was ultimately resolved by abandoning a conflicting date, to simply offer a welcome new option at a harmless time.

PAW2014Conflict solved – but then came pressure to follow through.  PAW was dogged by what some called poor planning.  Watchers questioned short timing, a contract with a hotel rumored to be demolished, staff changes, and neglect for marketing.  (As the date approached with little notice, I did what I could to share the “Furry Night Live” PAW party that week.)

The vibe of PAW seemed geared for low-effort relaxing with friends.  In a casual visit on Saturday night, I checked out three room parties with the usual suspects, and appreciated their generosity.

It’s not easy to start a con anywhere, let alone near the USA’s most expensive costs of living.  Difficulty is inevitable.  The organizers weathered it, and delivered a con as promised.  Criticism came early, but tapered off.  Despite mixed feedback, the final outcome seemed to be praise from people with low expectations who were happy enough, and wanting more.  It’s an OK start to come back stronger next year.


One of the sights at PAW. See more photos from Ultra-Gor or Amenophis.

Honest feedback from a thread on the Bay Area Furries email list:

“The first impression was zero signage and getting lost… 5 or so fursuiters, and a very, very shabby hotel… Apparently there were room-parties, but no directions to them… The organisers hadn’t properly liaised/block-booked rooms and therefore the parties had upset other residents.  With literally no-one to talk to or hang with (the fursuiters just went dancing) we all left… Not well planned or executed.

However, there was, on the first night, a lot of interest from people, especially locals, that wouldn’t mind a larger-scale event…”

“I have to say that the organizers did a commendable job bringing something off in the short time they had, in a less than ideal location… Pac Anthro didn’t have great beginnings, but what they are doing to help rectify that rocky start deserves recognition.”

“Gonna be honest and say that the cost for the event was a huge kick in the knee for something so small and very low-key… But that’s also due to probably the renting out of the hotel space and needing to cover the cost and I suppose the fact it is a fund-raiser… I do hope though, that it did help and we can see an actual full-fledged con come out of it… bottom line? With all of that? They did a great job. It really can only go up from here.”

“Hotel function spaces unfortunately have a hefty price tag attached to them…  The equation always ends up in hotel conventions costing the attendees overall a lot more money so the perceived value of the programming and activities really needs to be stepped up a lot to a level that cannot very done casually in other venues…  the overall experience has to be worth enough to each consumer… Every con struggles with this balance.”

“The hotel function space and the minimum room block cost a fairly large amount, considering it was all coming out of the board’s own pocket. There was a lot of discussion on the registration price… Too low and we lose money, too high and we lose attendees and it’s difficult for a first year con to predict…

As a board we are well aware of a number of issues there were with the con and there will be a lot of post-con discussion over what went right and what went wrong and what could be done better… Given how quickly this was planned and put together things actually ran fairly smoothly without any major incidents… It was a big learning experience for all of us.”

“I’d like to congratulate the PAW organizers and volunteers for managing to turn what started out as potential fail-con into an actual event. That’s no mean feat!  Thank you for all of your hard work!”

“I only have good things to say… The saddest part of the con was that I heard the hotel may be destroyed to make way for another anonymous gambling facility.  Good luck trying to get any interest from them to allow us to have any kind of gathering in there… I hope the hotel hangs on for PAW to have another go at it there at the same place. Damn straight I’ll go to the next one if they have it there. The next one will only be even better.”

Pic by Amenophis

Pic by Amenophis

On 11/21, a response came from “The Board of Pacific Anthropomorphics League” asking “how did we do?”  It addressed feedback with respect:

“Our goal was to provide a furry experience that could bridge the gap between a full-on furry convention (like Further Confusion) and a one-night furry dance party (like Frolic) … kind of a weekend-long furry chill party to socialise with your friends, hang out, play games, fursuit, enjoy a drink or two, and still have a chance to shake your tail to some good music.

We’d also love feedback, really, on the whole concept of our “bridge the gap” weekend furry party idea. We’re not really aiming to set up a second large Bay Area furry convention, especially only two months away from Further Confusion. Running a large furry convention takes a huge amount of effort, and it’ll work better for all concerned if we devote most of our community’s efforts and talents to just one of them. So this was a trial balloon for something a little different. Most smaller furry cons are in smaller markets that have lower costs, so we’re testing to see if we can make the economics of a weekend furry chill party work in the Bay Area. Please let us know how you feel!”

My opinions: Alternatives create competition. Positive competition raises quality for all.  It probably does need to grow somewhat to be economical, and compete to draw at least some goers from outside the area.  It brings a challenge to offer features and personality others don’t have.  A chill party may not be an interesting enough draw, unless maybe it happens at a resort with nature attractions.  Find features that set yours apart.