Furry Fiesta is fur-ocious fun

Rory Moore | Mercury Staff

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Art stalls overflowed with merchandise and countless colorful, larger-than-life animal costumes greeted guests at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, which hosted 2024’s Texas Furry Fiesta convention from March 15 to 17. This year, more than 17 Comets in fursuits attended the convention to socialize and connect with over 8,000 other furries. 

TFF 2024 is the fourth largest furry convention in the world, bringing together fans of humanoid animal characters both locally and from afar. The convention hosted an artist alley, Dealer’s Den, dance competitions, panels and guest speakers, as well as after-dark shows for adults only. Festivities kicked off with an opening ceremony on the​ ​15th honoring Mark Merlino, a founding member of the American furry community who died Feb. 20, as well as other guests of honor, including a scientist and furry community member who worked on the Moderna Covid vaccine. UTD students Chloe Hicks and Jonathan Gerhart said they enjoyed attending TFF because of the acceptance it grants the furry fandom.  

“I’ve been going to this convention since I’ve been in middle school,” Hicks, an ATEC freshman, said. “This is probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had because UTD is great for making friends, especially furry friends, if you know where to look.” 

Central to any furry convention is the wide variety of fursuiters, or furries wearing costumes of their animal characters. Fursuits range in appearance from fluffy and cartoony to sporting science fiction-like mechanical parts and light displays, and include everything from a head and handpaws to full-body constructions with realistic digitigrade legs that run for thousands of dollars. Because of the steep cost and practical difficulties of fursuiting, ranging from limited vision to overheating, some convention goers create their own suit parts or build elements like cooling packs and water dispensers into their suits. Others opt for cosplay or light animal accessorizing over fursuiting. Hicks wore a partial suit of her character, Anby, a red and white weasel, to TFF, and Gerhart went as his character Lyam, a blue and grey fennec fox. 

“Most suiters can’t suit more than one to three hours at a time or they’ll die,” Gerhart said. “Plenty of people take breaks by just taking off the head, and that’s usually sufficient enough for me.” 

The convention spanned multiple floors across the hotel and its neighboring convention center. The first floor of the convention center housed the Dealer’s Den, where well-known furry creators sold merchandise including jewelry, artwork, tails made of fake fur and furry tabletop gaming systems. The adjacent artist alley provided a rotating array of lesser-known furry artists the chance to sell their wares. 

“I anticipate going into other cons, taking road trips for it in the future,” Hicks said. “It’s a big investment with money, I will say. You don’t have to spend money to be a furry, but if you want to go to all these big conventions, oh yes, you will need to spend some money.” 

Events brought attendees together, including a dance competition where onlookers cheered on participants wearing everything from full fursuits to daily attire, as well as dozens of informational panels covering topics like furry demonology, fursuit construction, metallurgy, neurodivergence​​ and media analysis. Hicks said that despite facing social ostracism when she was younger, furry conventions provided a space to exist without judgment and make friends. 

“I remember I opened the hotel doors and I saw people [in fursuits] in person, and there are people even outside in fursuits, before I even went in,” Gerhart said. “Here I am, right, and look at me, I’m just beaming. I’m just so happy to be there.” 

Because of TFF’s nearby location in Dallas, UTD has developed a large and active furry community which frequently holds meetups and social events. Large-scale conventions such as TFF, however, are​ ​vital to UTD’s furries by providing more freedom and opportunities than local gatherings. 

“I love the fur meets that we have, it’s usually just a close knit group of people who really know each other, and we just hang out, do relatively normal stuff,​​” Hicks said. “Furry cons are different because this is where all the cool stuff is. If you wanna get all your cool furry merch, you want to go to big raves at the nighttime, you wanna see some of the craziest suiters you’ve ever seen … This is where you’d see them, if they got money for that fursuit, they’ve got money to travel here.” 

Gerhart said his journey into the furry community began in high school, where a friend helped him create his fursona, or animal character persona. He began attending UTD in 2019, joining its furry community before becoming one of its unofficial leaders. 

“Furry conventions have always been very emotional, both good and bad,” Gerhart said. “They have very high energy. There’s a lot of letting go with filters and boundaries that you normally hold in regular society … You really suspend your disbelief for the first time. Seeing fursuiters in person and it’s just like, I feel normal, right? I feel me … Being this character that I’ve dreamed of, that I spent hours creating [art and spending] money on and having people perceive me, people calling me Lyam.” 

Along with the judgment-free space convention communities provide, Gerhart said he appreciates conventions like TFF for bringing together people from all walks of life. 

“It’s very surreal, on the last day of [a convention], or on the airport on the way home, seeing people who look like everyday Joes or people who look like they work in accounting … people who you would see at the doctor’s office … just the most normal, boring people ever,” Gerhart said. “And you’ll see them with Pelican cases that hold a fursuit or you’ll see them with stickers on the back where they’re wearing a hat. And it is just sad seeing everyone return to normal [society].” ​​​​ 


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