Little con in the big city: How New York furries are establishing a convention in the Big Apple

by Dogpatch Press Staff

Rocky Coyote wrote in: “Hi Patch, great work on the furries and commercialization stories! Those were excellent reads. I just wanted to let you know that there’s a new mini con in New York City. I was thinking about submitting a feature about it and the growing furry presence in NYC.”

I wrote back that I have looked for furry presence while traveling in NYC and not found a lot in the past because it seemed scattered, and would love to help. (If anyone has the urge to write, guests get offered thank you tips, which I have to mention out of gratitude about the awesome result here.) – Patch

Little con in the big city: How a handful of New York furs are looking to establish a convention presence in the Big Apple – by Rocky Coyote

For a city referred to as ‘the concrete jungle,’ New York has a surprisingly small furry presence in the United States. Despite living in the biggest city in the nation, furries from the Big Apple must travel elsewhere if they want to attend a convention. A handful of furs looked to change that by organizing and hosting a mini convention on Memorial Day that saw over 50 attendees participate in a day-long event in the heart of Queens.

At around 10 a.m. that Monday, a handful of people were already gathered at Occasions Hall (https://www.occasionshall.com/) on 104th street preparing for the event. Tables were wiped down, chairs were set and a laptop was hooked up to the sound system for music. In the middle of it all was an 18-year-old fur referred to as Thunder. Wearing a large cowboy hat and matching black bandana, the Queens native was making her rounds ensuring that the setup was going smoothly.

She credited her friends and co-founders of the con for setting up the venue on the day of the event. That included c0mplex, a Brooklyn native with a fox fursona, Azul, also Brooklyn native with a blue Yoshi sona, and Sakkii Jay, a New Rochelle, N.Y. resident with a purple jay fursona.

“My friends actually came around 9 a.m., I woke up, looked at my phone and saw messages saying ‘we’re here.’ I’m rolling out of bed, printing the guest lists, taking a shower, walking my dog, doing all these things and they’re in front of my house at that point and they brought all of the stuff here,” Thunder said. “They arranged all the tables before I even got there, which was amazing. They did most of the hard work in today’s regards.”

She also acknowledged Kip, a New York resident that made a $5,000 donation to help fund the con and other future events. Most of the guests signed a postcard thanking him for his contribution.

Photo by Aksel Holguin

Because of Kip’s donation, the mini con was free of charge and over 50 people had RSVP’ed in the month leading up to the event. Around 11 a.m., guests were making their way into the hall, introducing themselves to one another. For many of the attendees, it was the first time going to a furry convention of any kind. While the event was smaller than most cons, people had the opportunity to play games, dance and socialize with others. Snacks and drinks were provided, and a local pizzeria next door gave con-goers an additional food option.

Tables were set up for a handful of vendors who sold merchandise ranging from shirts, fursuit accessories, plushes, buttons, stickers and art prints. Sakkii hosted a “Furry Fury hot sauce challenge,” where any willing participant had to sample nine flavors of hot sauce with increasing levels of heat, and winners were given hand-made badges from Sakki. A couple of artists offered to do some sketches as well.

By 3 p.m., there were over 50 furries packed in the convention hall. The maximum occupancy for the venue was listed at 80, but having tables set up for the vendors meant less space for the guests. Overcrowding was never a problem, however, and Thunder noted that it was a primary concern of hers when organizing the event.

 “I’m glad that we didn’t get above the (80 person) limit because that was a concern with how many people registered. I didn’t want 100 people to be packed in this little room, but I think it worked out okay. Some people came and left at different times, so it was never overcrowded,” she said.

The mini con came to a close around 9 p.m. as the last of the guests filed out of the hall. C0mplex, who served as the DJ and hosted several rounds of Quiplash throughout the day, spoke about the con while crediting Thunder for putting it all together.

“It went great. Everyone showed up perfectly, and I don’t think we had any kind of issues with anything. We had enough activities and everyone showed up, we didn’t make any money out of it but the event was free,” C0mplex said. “Thunder put together everything flawlessly. The only issue was that she slept in until 10, so we were there for an hour waiting, but other than that everything went great. Everyone knew where to go and showed up on time, and all of the events were perfect.”

Small scene in a big city

While the mini con was undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it points to a bigger irony that the most populous city in the United States has never hosted a large-scale furry convention. Other big cities such as Chicago (Midwest FurFest), Boston (Anthro New England), Pittsburgh (Anthrocon) and Philadelphia (Furrydelphia) have all had successful conventions, and it begs the question why New York has not followed suit.

All four co-founders of the mini-con all agreed that financing a large-scale event is a primary concern. The cost of living in New York is among the highest in the nation, and hosting a convention would be no different. The hall used in Queens went for $850, and even that was a discounted rate since the event took place on a Monday. According to Thunder, costs for renting larger venues such as the New York Expo Center and Brooklyn Expo Center could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars per day.

Another problem mentioned was the fractured community among New York furs. As the co-founders explained, the problem is not a lack of furries in the greater NYC area, but rather a lack of unified communication.

“It’s all different leadership that’s split up from Facebook, Telegram, Amino, Meetup, even Twitter, Skype and Discord groups. On FurAffinity, there were a lot of followers on the page that hasn’t been active for years,” Thunder said. “I’ve seen posts on these different sites asking ‘hey are there any other furs in New York?’ again and again and again on every different social media platform. Nobody was ever able to say ‘yeah here’s the group.’ It was always just ‘I’m one,’ and that was it.”

Azul pointed out that organizing local meets can be a challenge because of the geography and transit layout of New York. The city is comprised of five different boroughs–Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island–and travelling across those boroughs could prove to be a hassle.

“Most furries use public transportation here in the city, and the fact that the MTA, our subway, goes from whatever borough into Manhattan and then back to another borough. Essentially you’re going out of your way to come back, which may or may not be ideal for a lot of people because it adds an extra hour or so to their commute,” Azul said.

Taking the next step

If anything, the mini con proved that the aforementioned challenges can be overcome. Furries showed up from different boroughs as well as out of state, and the event was organized largely on meetup.com and Discord. With over 50 people registering for the event in a short time period, Thunder said she’s confident that even more people will show up for a larger event.

“This was just testing the waters; can we fill a room? We did, very fast actually. What I wanted to do was start here and then have a slightly bigger event, and then a slightly bigger one, and an even bigger one after that, but it all depends on the financial situation.”

No venue or date has been set for a larger convention, but one possible destination mentioned by the co-founders is the Brooklyn Expo Center. The 60,000 square foot venue would cost $15,000 to rent to per day, but Thunder believes they can attract enough attendees to offset the costs.

“Even if we had only a couple of hundred, it would be able to pay off a larger venue. I think we could reach that number if we advertise it longer, because the mini con was only advertised for less than a month. People knew this event was going to happen, but the signups were very short notice,” Thunder said.

C0mplex added that the experience of running a convention, albeit a smaller one, gives them a better idea of what is required to run a successful event, and will do whatever is necessary to achieve that goal. “It’s definitely the first stepping stone to a future of having larger conventions in New York City,” he said.

While discussions for a future convention is in the works, additional events are listed in the NYC Furries Meetup page (https://www.meetup.com/NYC-Furries/). Any furries from New York City, New York State and surrounding areas are also encouraged to visit http://nycfurs.org/.

Photo by Aksel Holguin

Photo by Aksel Holguin

Photo by Aksel Holguin

Photo by Aksel Holguin

Photo by Aksel Holguin

Photo by Aksel Holguin

Photo by c0mplex

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