There is also the money donated by FurCon, a nonprofit, to local animal-related charities, such as Town Cats in Morgan Hill and 13th Street Cat Rescue in San Jose. In its first 13 years, FurCon donated more than $140,000 total, Strom says.
Scotty the Minotaur, which is exactly what one would expect—a 46-year-old man in a Minotaur costume—is one of the few “fursuited” attendees willing to grant an interview that includes the use of speech. An arranged interview went sour when it was learned that the guide would only communicate with hand signals like a theme-park mascot.
“The people who are really good at performance don’t like to talk because it ruins the character,” explains Strom.
But in talking with Scotty the Minotaur and his bearded friend, Badger—who are both from Las Vegas—the culture of FurCon starts to make some sense. Aside from weekends such as this, the friendships between furries are almost entirely virtual.
“The best part of the convention is interacting with people that you know online—putting a face to a name,” Badger says.
A good chunk of FurCon attendees network by spending the bulk of their free time attached to keyboards, gaining connections through message boards and games such as World of Warcraft.
“It’s great to interact with people online in an IM [instant message] environment,” Scotty says, “but meeting someone in person brings a whole new dimension to a friend relationship.”
Some friendships only grow more candid at FurCon. One man in his late 20s from Denver, who asked not to be identified, admits “a lot of people are afraid [to be interviewed on record] because of being prejudiced.”
But during the course of the weekend, the man found the same could be said for some personal relationships. “I saw a friend from middle school,” he says. “We didn’t even know” we’re both furries.
The expense of joining the anthropomorphic culture has costs. There is the emotional toll that comes from the fear of being ostracized by family, friends and co-workers, and then there is the physical and economical toll. Costumes, which are usually custom made, can cost from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. And as Scotty the Minotaur admits, wearing the “fursuit” can be a test of one’s fortitude.
“I wish I had a digital thermometer,” he says. “The only time I’m comfortable is walking outside in the winter. You’d have to be insane to do this. It’s like wearing a couch.”
Before leaving, Scotty the Minotaur considers the greater meaning about fandom and FurCon.
“It’s just a way of getting in touch with your ultracreative side,” he says.
A hand extends to his hoof to say thanks, but Scotty the Minotaur retreats.
“Fursuits don’t do handshakes,” he says. “We do hugs.