Camp Feral!: Fifteen Years, 1998 – 2012 (Part 1) by Fred Patten

by kiwiztiger

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.


Camp Feral! An all-inclusive furry summer camp where the registration fee covers your food, lodging and activities for the most unique and memorable furry experience of your life! Your fee covers all the coffee you can drink, [and] all the breakfast lunch or dinner you can eat.” (from the Camp Feral! 2012 website)

Camp Feral! is the oldest of the recorded outdoor furry conventions, going back to 1998. (There may have been earlier informal furry camping trips that made no claim of being conventions.) It is also Canada’s oldest furry event, and the fourth oldest continuing furry convention (after EuroFurence in 1995 and Anthrocon and Mephit FurMeet in 1997). It was started after the oldest furry annual convention, ConFurence in Southern California (1989), gave rise to U.S. East Coast furry conventions in 1995 to 1997 (Furtasticon, Confurence East, Albany Anthrocon), inspiring Canadian furry fans to start their own convention – but with a difference.

Camp Feral! was conceived by several Toronto-area Furry fans. P. Pardus said in the Feral! 99! Survival Guide that it got started by him and Terry Wessner asking each other “what if” questions during Albany Anthrocon ’97. Other furs remember the planning as starting just after the first Albany Anthrocon in July 1997, while still others remember it as preceding the first Anthrocon but inspired by Anthrocon’s pre-con publicity. In any case, everyone agrees that Albany Anthrocon gave them the idea. The original plan, to have an outdoor summer camping retreat with furry workshops instead of a traditional hotel-style convention (it is often called the “uncon” because it is so different from other furry conventions), is credited to P. (Panthera) Pardus (Ken Suzuki) of Mississauga, and Silfur (Dan Markey) and Terry Wessner of Toronto. They held several organizational meetings from summer 1997 through early 1998, led by Pardus in Wessner’s 22nd floor Toronto apartment. The Camp Feral! name is credited to MelSkunk (Melissa Drake), in response to a call for a name that was “evocative without being too open to ridicule”. The initial committee consisted of Pardus (chairman), Wessner (facilitator), and Silfur (activities coordinator), plus Simba (Benjamin Eren Robinson, also known as Benjamin; advertising director and web site developer) and Wilykat (Colin Bolton; safety and security), all of Toronto-area furry fandom. The committee and workshop instructor posts for this and future years have not always had the formal titles that they do today – Pardus and Wessner were known at FeralCom meetings as “president-for-life” and “facilitator” — but these are the furs and the jobs that they were responsible for. Wessner bankrolled the first Camp Feral!, which operated at a steep loss because the committee seriously underestimated expenses. (He was reimbursed over several years.) Read the rest of this entry »