For the next few days, Pittsburgh has a new tourism slogan: “Mighty. Beautiful. Furry.”
VisitPittsburgh officially instituted the temporary tagline to celebrate Anthrocon’s return to the city for a 12th year. The agency isn’t alone in welcoming back the world’s largest convention for fans of anthropomorphics (aka furries). Local restaurants, bars and businesses are greeting the furry crowds with open arms, offering a slew of special deals and treats to conference participants.
About 8,000 people are expected to participate in the show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, representing all 50 states and almost every continent, according to Anthrocon public outreach director John Cole, who goes by “KP.” He expects more than 5,000 will show up as spectators for the Fursuit Parade on Saturday.
Furries make a big economic impact. Each year, the convention brings $7.1 million in direct spending (things like hotels, restaurants, taxis and shopping) to Allegheny County. Over the past 12 years, Anthrocon is estimated to have contributed more than $53.2 million in direct spending to Pittsburgh.
For businesses that want to send a welcoming message, Cole recommends paw prints. “Just draw paw prints leading into your restaurants,” he said. “That’s a universal signal that you are asking furries to come in.”
And restaurants are following suit. For furries who want to get a drink or a bite to eat, specials and prizes abound.
Best deals for furries in Pittsburgh
Sienna Mercato, located just steps from the Convention Center, went as far as to change its Twitter name to Sienna Fur-cato and posted a message welcoming Anthrocon participants.
Per Sienna spokesperson Jesse Ament, the entire three-level venue, which encompasses meatball joint Emporio on the ground floor, upscale dining room Mezzo on the second and bar Il Tetto on the roof, will be “fursuit-friendly.” That means people are welcome to wear their fursuits throughout the building (although they might need to show ID at some point).
There’s also a social media contest that asks people to take a photo in their fursuit at the restaurant and post it on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the tag #siennafurcato. The most liked photo will win a $100 gift card and the title of Fursuit King/Queen of Sienna Furcato.
The Westin Pittsburgh, where many furries gathered on Thursday afternoon, calls Anthrocon its “favorite time of the year.” The Starbucks attached to the hotel is selling what it calls the Furryccino 2.0.
Fernando’s Cafe designed a poster with the slogan “Paws down, best pizza in town.” Furries have a special bond with Fernando’s (or Furnando’s), which offers a dog bowl special.
Katie’s Kandy bedecked its store in paw prints and offers the promise of coupons.
Anthroconners also seem pretty excited about Condado Tacos, which is displaying a sign reading “Tequila, Tacos and Tails.”
But, uh, how do fursuiters eat and drink exactly?
“Most people don’t eat and drink in costume,” Cole explained. “A lot of people don’t want to get food on [it].”
Most fursuiters will go back to their room and change and shower (fursuits are hot and sweaty) before grabbing a bit to eat. Drinking is another story because “some costumers don’t want to take the costume off at all,” Cole said.
When they do drink in costume, fursuiters usually use a long straw that fits through their suit’s mouth piece, or will drink from a bottle that fits inside their costume’s headpiece.
The sight of animals sipping cocktails won’t likely turn any heads, since it’s all happened many times before. Furry conventions are held all over the world, but the Pittsburgh is particularly memorable for participants.
“No other city partners with their convention the way that Pittsburgh partners with Anthrocon,” Cole said. “It’s a special feeling.”