17 years of progress with the Norcal Furries at San Francisco Pride.
by Patch O'Furr
For the 2019 San Francisco Pride parade on June 30, the Norcal Furries had their biggest turnout yet. A hundred members made the street their stage with cheering audiences on both sides. They won the “Absolutely Outrageous” award out of more than 200 parade contingents, their second year to get an award.
“Once again we beat corporations who spend thousands on their floats with just a bunch of GoFundMe donations, and a couple of people looking very fuzzy!” (- Vance)
It’s rare to get a public spotlight like this anywhere outside of convention hotels. There was no cost for just showing up to join. It was the first Pride for many members, and it wasn’t just about queer visibility, but also engaging allies and freedom of self-expression for all. It looked like a party but the reason for it wasn’t forgotten. 50 years ago, Stonewall was a riot against hate, but fun without fighting is an answer to the question — what did they fight for?
It’s spreading. This weekend there will be a new furry float at San Diego Pride. The organizer told me about wanting to bring it to LA Pride and draw Norcal furries there too. (Look for a story about that soon.)
After the parade, the Norcal Furries regrouped at the back of a tapas restaurant that was reserved just for them. Paella sizzled and sangria splashed while core supporter Spottacus stood up to speak.
Spottacus said the float didn’t just exist to get on and ride it. It happened because every one of them made it go, almost like they pushed it with their own paws. They were pushing change over time too. The enthusiastic turnout was way different from the first time furries were in San Francisco Pride.
The Absolutely Outrageous award that the furry float/contingent won at the San Francisco Pride Parade today, thanks to Bay Area Furries, @Zoren, @RelayRaccoon,@Spottacus, @patch_packrat and others pictured at the after parade dinner celebration. pic.twitter.com/HSEUAKNLow
— Spottacus Chee (➡ CC, EF, Burn) (@Spottacus) July 1, 2019
— Brigus St. John (@brigusdawg) July 5, 2019
In 2002, the community was torn by infighting. Nobody was more against it than other furries. They didn’t even want the group name to be used with so-called “sexual” implications, as if that should be dictated by outsiders with no interest in what the group does. It was documented on the local mailing list. (Brigus, an original organizer, told me he wants to dig up key documents to show it.)
After 2005, furries stopped being in the parade due to low resources — every helping paw matters if the burden rests on a few. Then another original organizer, Bos’n Otter, helped my effort to bring back a float. He was proud to have others pick up where he left off. (I’ve been helping to organize Pride meets since 2012.)
If you ever hear complaints that Pride doesn’t matter any more, that’s the sound of dead weight holding you back. Some people would even stop you from openly using the name “furry”. If you can’t enjoy something as simple as your hobby, what more is on the chopping block?
— Ringtailed Pan of Bi-Shaped Fun (@RelaxingDragon1) June 30, 2019
— Dogpatch Press (@DogpatchPress) July 12, 2019
Here’s how the 2019 parade looked for Candy, a first-time marcher with the furries:
“The streets of downtown San Francisco were lined with tens of thousands of people for the 50th annual Pride parade. The Norcal Furries contingent had over 100 members with around 35 riding the float.
My favorite thing at the parade was the fursuiters interacting with the crowd. A dragon/shark-esque creature was zooming around on his scooter, doing laps around the group. A purple bunny with a matching purple backpack was going around giving high fives and hugs. A pink bunny, a tiger, an alligator and many more creatures were bouncing on top of the 14 feet tall Bounce Car which was adorned with elephants holding disco balls on the sides and pumping party music.
At one point we were worried that things like antler horns or big fluffy ears might hit the overhead cable car wires that San Francisco is known for. Can you imagine a cute bunny just going POOF! and turning into the Energizer Bunny?
There were tigers and lions and bears (oh my!) and dogs and wolfs and cats, and so much more! The fursuiters were well received by the spectators and many high fives and hugs were given out along the parade route. Much of the crowd was decked out in rainbow clothing, flags, beads, hats, makeup, bandanas and boas. The theme of this year’s parade was Generations of Resistance. And furries showed how to resist hate with the freedom of self expression. The contingent even won the Absolutely Outrageous award! (Last year they won the Absolutely Fabulous award.)”
— Dogpatch Press (@DogpatchPress) July 2, 2019
Spottacus was energized to spread the magic even better next time:
“Heya furry marchers: this was the 6th year of consecutive pride floats… And the best one yet. But instead of sitting still, let’s all think about how to up the game for next year. There are options for expanding, and if we have a compelling, exciting plan, we could be even more impactful. The crowd loved our exuberance, our variety (from dancing floatsters to paw-pressing street furs to scooter-riding sharks to charity-promoting suiters and friends, we were fun and interesting to watch). We’ve even been ribboned twice now.
So, we’re asking for ideas, and volunteers, to expand the art, the energy, the relevance. Let’s make next year even MORE fabulous and outrageous.”
— Cody 🦊 Boopers 🔜 MEGAPLEX (@CodyBoopers) July 1, 2019
VarekWolf tells why his first time was so special:
“SF Pride 2019 wasn’t just my first Pride march, it was my first Pride event of any kind. I’d recently arrived at the realization I was Ace and probably bi-romantic as well, so Pride was naturally a way to celebrate my newfound confidence in myself. When our contingent turned the corner onto Market Street and we were surrounded by cheering spectators, masses of colorful flags, and exchanges of “Happy Pride!” I felt connected not just to other Aces but to a vast, supportive, and diverse community of individuals all across the LGBTIQA+ spectrum. Pride was one of the most personally meaningful things — as well as one of the most strenuous fursuit outings — I’ve ever done. I’m looking forward to SF Pride 2020.”
Member photo galleries:
From the Telegram group for furries at Pride, I organized pics and vids into this channel (plus some interesting reactions): @sfpride2019. Here’s some selections.
“Just wanted to say, can’t thank all of you enough for the warm welcomes and hellos today meeting you! Really glad I was able to say hi to a few of you and meet ya (more glad our Disney float was right next to yours). Thanks again for being so sweet everyone. It was bittersweet for me leaving back to L.A. today. Made me miss living up in the Bay Area in general but more so because I got to meet some of you amazing, friendly and fun folks. You REALLY made my pride beyond memorable.” – Wusky Husky
“Thanks for the volunteers who put this event together! This my first time going to Pride and I totally loved it!” – Bill Trail Horse
“Thanks to everyone who put this together. This was my first time and I had an awesome time (though my ears are still ringing).” – Ryu Raccoon
“I had so much fun. Thank you everyone for organizing and setting all this up! All the contingent monitors deserve huge props as well, trying to organize us, and checking up on the suiters!” – Opda
“Thanks to the organizers and the volunteers running water around and cooling off suiters with leaf blowers. ” – Aidan Jackal
“It felt amazing to see a non corporation float. You all are life savers!! We need 5 more furry floats! Thank you for the fuzzy feelings.” – Jessica
“I like how our contingent looks so chaotic and diverse. Very non corporate and non regimented.” – Amenophis
“Isn’t it beautiful? I love the non corporateness and pure creativity.” – Joe G. Bear
“It was beautiful, and such a huge juxtaposition to the overly corporate floats with their big logos and color coordinated T-shirts.” – Tizzy
“Also thanks to all of you for being there. It is all of you who truly won the absolutely outrageous award. Combining it with the prior years award that means we’re Outrageously Fabulous.” – Zoren
“Thanks a bunch again, organizers and volunteers. I had a great first time at Pride, despite being a bay area native.” – Ray Ting
“I’d like to express my amazement, respect and heartfelt gratitude to everyone. To the organizers: it’s no small feat to coordinate all this, believe me I know. You did an extraordinary job. The float was awesome, the sound was badass, and the setup/teardown/operations crew obviously had their shit together. To the folks running around with water, straws, leaf blowers (best idea ever!), and just generally checking up on us: you were essential and AMAZING. To the folks guiding us crowd-focused, half-blind, mostly-exhausted furbags, your always-friendly-but-insistent direction/wrangling was extremely necessary and helpful. Thanks for the excellent work and PATIENCE! To the wheel monitors, you kept us from DYING! (OK, all the contingent monitors did that one way or another, tis true.) And to everyone who marched, you ALL did a bangin job of showing Furry’s best and most outrageous side to San Francisco, the LGBTQ+ community, Twitter, the Internet and the world (maybe?). Obviously the crowd and the parade itself loved us. This was my third time marching in the furry contingent in the pride parade, and the last time was 16 years ago. I gotta say, we’ve come a long way baby, and it was a joy to participate. So many good vibes and positive energy. Keep being who you are and be proud! I know I am.” – Brigus
Special thanks: to organizers Zoren, Clinton, Groggy, Trip, Roman, Mr. Disk0 and Buster for working with The Bounce Car and crew, Kado Husky for art, Spottacus and Relay for hosting and dinner, every Gofundme donor, and Natalie and Denise (ALSAOCC director and manager) for coming in honor of Dogbomb, and the supporters who made it possible (especially those who came from far away or aren’t furries but allies.)