Sirens blasting, a fire truck came racing down Penn Avenue toward the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. As the sound grew intense, furries waiting to cross the street began to playfully howl and bark. Locals enjoying their lunch outside on a sunny Thursday afternoon smiled.
It’s this natural friendliness that has brought Books, a furry from Virginia, back to Anthrocon after attending his first convention last year.
“Every single one of [the other cons] didn’t have the same atmosphere,” Books said as he munched on a sandwich with his friends at Fernando’s Café — a favorite furry hangout that is rechristened Furnando’s for the weekend.
Sitting next to Books was Tanuki, also from Virginia. Joining them at the table were fellow furries from Indiana and Texas.
“I’ve been going to [Anthrocon] for as long as it’s been in Pittsburgh,” Tanuki said. “Everyone is so cool. … Pittsburgh treats us like royalty.”
Take a quick stroll around the convention center and you quickly pick up that vibe. Most shops and restaurants had chalk boards out front with some variant of “Welcome Furries!”, while the paw-print logo of the festival — in its 20th year, and eleventh in the ’Burgh — crawled across some shop windows.
Anthony Muto is one of the entrepreneurs who awaits the arrival of costumed customers every year.
“I’ll be here all weekend,” Muto said as he pulled hot dogs off the grill of his lunch cart, just outside the convention center. His stand is normally “a lunch-hour thing” for business folks needing quick grub, but he extends his hours into the late evening for hungry Anthrocon visitors.
Con-goers shouted greetings at Muto as they went by, the out-of-town “regulars” Muto knows from five years at the corner of Tenth and Penn. His stand, normally emblazoned with “Firehouse Franks,” had a sticker over the “fire” — replacing it with “fur”.
“They love feeling accepted,” Muto said.