Summer Tradition: Furries Flock to Pittsburgh

Nearly 10,000 came to town to attend Anthrocon; event generates millions in economic impact

By Matt Neistein

Published July 8, 2019

Read Time: 2 mins


(Photos and video by Beth Hollerich)

Fourth of July means fireworks, frankfurters and fun. In Pittsburgh, it also means furries.

The enthusiasts more formally known as “fursuiters” flocked to Western Pennsylvania during the first week of July to attend the annual Anthrocon convention, one of the largest events of its kind in the world, for the 14th consecutive year.

That’s right – 14 straight years of furries picking the ’Burgh over anywhere else.

In 2018, more than 8,000 people – including about 2,000 who enjoy dressing up in full-body suits depicting anthropomorphic animals and mythical creatures – attended the convention, generating nearly $8 million in economic impact (as well as a $42,000 donation to South Hills Pet Rescue).


While final numbers have not yet been announced, event organizers estimate that about 10,000 people attended Anthrocon this year. Many of those guests came through Pittsburgh International Airport, where LED screens in the Airside Terminal welcomed them to town.

“We love the furries,” said Tom Loftus, chief marketing officer of VisitPittsburgh.

But why do the furries love us?

“They told us when they came here 14 years ago that they fell in love with the city,” Loftus said. “And they fell in love with how well they’ve been treated and how welcoming Pittsburghers are.”

This year’s convention, which ran from July 4-7, was themed “Surf Pacific” and featured what has quickly become the public’s favorite part of the week: Saturday’s “Fursuit Parade,” with attendees marching outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, cheered on by thousands of spectators.

Pittsburghers have become accustomed to seeing lions and dragons and pandas strolling through Downtown and other neighborhoods at this time of year. Restaurants and bars hold special events (you have to check out “Furry-oke”) and prepare themed menus revolving around the convention.

One of the first businesses to embrace Anthrocon was Fernando’s Café Downtown, which was located on Liberty Avenue a block away from the Westin Pittsburgh before going out of business in 2012. The owner of the shop customized the entire eatery, temporarily rebranding it “Furryland Café” and selling his food in dog dishes.

The bond between Fernando DeCarvalho and the furries was later cemented when he defended an attendee being accosted by a stranger and was injured in the altercation.

Loftus said the footprint of Downtown and its walkability is also a big factor, as well as the flexibility of the convention center.

“They’re one of our best groups that come here. It’s not only the economic impact; they donate to a local charity as well,” Loftus said. “We hope they keep coming back.”

This year’s charity of choice was PEARL Parrot Rescue. Anthrocon has raised more than $300,000 for local charities since 2006.

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