Arlington, VA

A convention of furries — a subculture interested of anthropomorphic animal characters — has taken over the lower levels of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City (2799 Richmond Highway) this weekend.

The 8th annual Fur the More convention is happening today through Sunday, March 8. Attendance at the convention starts at $55.

Starting today (Friday), the lower three levels of the building are filled with art, costumes and panel discussions of various fandoms. There are a few dozen full-body character suits called a fursuit that has become the iconic image of the fandom, but most of the couple hundred of attendees at the convention’s opening range from Pokémon kigurumi to subtle tails or cat ears sported by hotel staff.

The theme of the convention this year was science fiction, so several costumes blended anthropomorphic animals with sci-fi convention staples like Firefly and Star Trek.

“I like these smaller cons,” said KiwiNiwi, one of several attendees at the convention who goes by a nom de guerre. “The bigger ones are usually rushed. These are chiller. You can talk to friends.”

Many people descending the escalator waved to friends waiting in the ticket line and greeted each other by the respective character names. KiwiNiwi said several people travel across the country to see friends at these conventions. It was KiwiNiwi’s fourth year at Fur the More, which was previously been held in Tysons and Baltimore.

Starla (real name Ashton Spenner) acted as furry liaison for ARLnow and said the main theme among the furry fandom is acceptance. Starla, who also works at other conventions for fandoms like anime, said the furry community stands out to her for its accommodating and accepting nature.

“There are a lot of people here with social anxiety, but fursonas give people confidence,” Starla said. “It allows people to express themselves.”

The anonymity of a mask can also be a problem at conventions. Signs around the hotel remind people to keep their hands to themselves, as the anonymity has sometimes resulted in overly frisky furries. Starla said there have been a few issues over the years, but they’re the exception rather than the norm to what is typically a G-rated environment.

On the main convention floor, vendors sold everything from artwork to props and pins.

“I’m always a little anxious,” said CrazDude, an artist positioned at the front of the hall of vendors as the guest of honor — after being nominated by convention attendees and voted on by staff.

CrazDude said Fur the More was the first convention where she worked as a vendor and artist, so it felt like a special privilege to be chosen as the guest of honor by what she called her “alma mater.” She said the new hotel space was larger than places she’d been before, and she was excited to sell custom hoodies and prints over the weekend.

Prop and diorama store Hole in the Ground is a regular guest at other conventions, but owners Donna and Eric Berry said this year was their first at a furry convention. The shop sells grey resin props, and Starla noted that many furries like to buy the unpainted versions to decorate them in their signature colors.

Every year, an auction at the convention raises money for a charity. This year, the charity is The ALS Association in commemoration of Dogbomb — real name Tony Barrett — a furry known and beloved by many at the convention who died last April after battling with ALS. At Fur the More, Dogbomb was noted as the “Ghost of Honor.” The organization had already raised $650 before the convention started, with the lion’s share likely to be raised at a charity auction later in the con.

“He was Mr. Rogers with dog ears and a beard,” said one of the convention staffers. “He was a selfless human being.”

The convention also features a side room full of tabletop games and video games, all of which are on loan from the personal collection of one of the members. Additionally, there is a small, but growing, museum that collects artifacts and stories from previous conventions.

Other features at the convention include a hospital station to fix bumps, bruises and other maladies — staff said dehydration is the main issue — plus a specialist on-site handy with a sewing kit for fixing up torn costumes.

A quiet room off to the side of the convention allows people experiencing sensory overload to get away from the loud press of the con.

Starla said the convention has a staff of roughly 115 people — relatively small for a convention. They work long hours, but Starla said the working rule is everyone has to have at least six hours of sleep, two meals, and one shower every day. Staff at the opening ceremony remarked that they only had around 36 hours to get the convention set up, but the cheers from the small but dedicated audience indicated that their work was appreciated.

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