Costumers let their fur down at VancouFur convention
Fur lovers from as far away as Poland will be gathering at the Executive Inn and Conference Centre in Burnaby this weekend. But organizers won't have to keep an eye out for paint bomb wielding protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Not only are the furs these conventioneers like to wear synthetic, they're already coloured vibrant hues of purple, orange, green and even pink.
VancouFur is the first convention in the Lower Mainland of anthropomorphic animals. In other words, people who like to dress in colourful, furry mascot costumes.
Like Alex March, 23. Her interest in anthropomorphic creatures, or "furries" as they call themselves, was borne from her love for animé. She watched Japanese cartoons such as Pokemon and Sailor Moon, read the comics. When she attended her first animé convention in 2004, she encountered other fans who liked to take on the persona of their favourite characters, donning ears or whiskers, a tail or paws. Her first experience in a full-on costume was as Art, the Joe Average designed mascot for the Shadbolt Centre.
"It's the worst costume you can ever wear," says March. "It was a heavy, sweaty, gross workout."
But the smiles from kids made it worthwhile.
She borrowed a costume from "Rainrat," a local designer and costume builder well-known in the furry community, and started attending loosely organized events like house parties, a monthly bowling meet, ice skating at Robson Square.
"We like to costume and we take any excuse to costume," says March, who used to teach preschool and worked in daycare.
It can be an expensive hobby. A do-it-yourself costume can cost about $500 in materials plus the time to design and sew it. Getting one made can run $1,500 up to $10,000 depending on the costume's complexity.
One renowned costume designer, Thumper, is the guest of honour at VancouFur. Of the more than 200 delegates from around British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest and as far away as England and Poland convention chair Coal Silvermuzzle says have already registered, only a fraction will be in costume. They'll be able to participate in a costume parade, the "fursuit games," a variety show and game shows. There will also be panel discussions on building costumes, creating a character, drawing furries and fiction writing as well a dealers' expo and an art show. Proceeds from the convention will help out Husky Rescue and Paws for a Cause.
But mostly the event is about sharing their common love for taking on alternate identities, says Silvermuzzle. "It's a very close-knit community. We want to help people understand more of what we're about."
"It's about what you want to be," says March. "It's a license to express yourself. You can be sillier. When you wear the costume, your IQ drops to two."