Nearly 200 fiction fans met up at the Hilton Boston Logan Airport over the weekend for the first local furry convention, shining a light on a mysterious and often misunderstood subculture.
So-called "furries" are interested in fictional anthropomorphic characters, and in some cases even dress as and take on the persona of the "animal-like" creatures.
“Thirty years ago when Star Trek came out, a lot of people who followed the show were ostracized for it. Now that community is really embraced by everyone. I think our community has taken the place of Trekkies in that respect,” said Fur-Con Organizer Rourke Danyals, 31, of Haverhill, who has been embracing his furry side for 18 years.
The subculture, which is said to have sprouted at a science fiction convention in 1980, has gained notoriety for its connection to sexual fetishism that involves role playing with the suits.[embedgallery id=440392]
"I'd be lying if I didn’t say it was a part of it," he said. "But you’ll find there are sexual aspects to communities all over the world. It's not the defining aspect, but it is an element of the furry community ... It's a lot broader of a community than people realize."
In fact, only about 10 percent of furries actually wear the hand-crafted suits, which can run upwards of $5,000.
Danyals, like many in his community, only dons a suit a few times per year.
Typically furries socialize online at websites like Furaffinity.net, and will sometimes attend group "meet-ups" with fellow fur-fans.
But this weekend's convention, officially named “The Maltese Fur-Con,” let furries do more than just mingle. Attendees were offered seminars on how to properly care for their fur suits - it involves Febreze - as well as games, dancing, fur pride parades, vendors, and more.
New York City resident Rebeccah Ortiz, 23, has been rocking her yellow fox suit - named "Elbi" - for about a year.
"Usually I get a very positive reaction. I make people smile, and they say, 'Oh what a pretty costume!' They want to take pictures and get hugs. It's really fun," said Ortiz.
Convention goer Jason Miclette, 27, of Connecticut said that although his alter ego "Zenfuhre" brings him joy, his favorite aspect of the fandom is its fundraisers.
"Absolutely the amount of charity work we do draws me to this community," said Miclette, who hopes to host his own Fur-Con in the future. "I get to dress up and make a fool of myself and make other people laugh, so that's the happy factor for me. But the other heart-warming factor is raising money as a group. The one we're doing [at Maltese Fur-Con] is for [service animals]."
Considering the convention's inaugural success, the Hub might see an even larger gathering next year.
“There are a few regular furry meet-ups in the Boston-area throughout the year, but I'd love to make this convention an annual event," said Danyals.