Nearly 4,000 furry lions, tigers, bears and other creatures from the animal kingdom arrive in downtown San Jose for FurCon 2014 this week, a long weekend of panels, events and parties for anthropormorphic animal enthusiasts—people who like to dress up like animals, in layman’s terms.

FurCon (short for Further Confusion) is the second largest event of its kind in the United States, according to organizers, filling several downtown hotels every year and reportedly contributing $4 million in residual income from attendees. It has also serves as a fundraiser for local charities, with some proceeds this year benefitting Digital Game Museum, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and study of digital games.

At the McEnery Convention Center, attendees will find a variety of activities and events, including appearances by special guests Mandi Tremlay, creator of the Peachy Keen series of graphic novels, and Christ Torres, an artist best known for the creation of flying rainbow poptart NyanCat.

Outside the convention center, passerbys will notice furries strolling through Plaza de César Chávez and long furry tails poking out from street clothes at downtown bars and restaurants. It can be a bit shocking for the uninitiated, but it’s mostly harmless fun, according to Corey Strom, vice chairman of FurCon.

“We are an all ages event where families can come and enjoy any one of the 170 panels about the art, community and the social life around it,” Strom said in an interview last year.  “Most of our guests are here for those reasons. Some of our guests use this opportunity to express themselves—it is a creative art related convention after all. A few of our guests enjoy the freedom of expression beyond that of most and will likely draw more attention, which may confuse people new to the concept of a furry con.”

FurCon began back in 1999 out at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara. Back then, only about 700 fans attended.

In addition to costumes, a variety of other disciplines are involved with the event, Strom says.
“While the costumes bring the most visual impact to the convention, traditional artists, sculptors, performers, singers, musicians, gamers, dancers and general fans make up a much greater chunk of the attendee population,” he says.

The confusion begins January 16 and run through January 20.