CON REPORT: Anthrocon 2015 “Viking Invasion”
Anthrocon 2015 saw a return to form for me, as my regular compatriots, Jake and Tef, would be attending once more this year. This would be my twelfth year running. Read on to see how this year’s convention went!
I had a number of things going on at the same time this week, so I had to pull off some meticulous planning to ensure everything timed right for me to get ready for this con. Luckily, it went off without a single hitch.
I would be flying out of Jacksonville this year, which meant I needed to take the usual three-hour road trip to my family’s home the day before. However, I also had to drop off the dog (I’d been dog-sitting for them since the previous week) at the pet boarding shelter there, and also withdraw my spending money from the bank before they closed at 1pm (Wednesdays are short days for them). Thanks to the afore-mentioned planning, I was able to get everything packed the night before and leave early in the morning, arriving with plenty of time to fulfill those errands and grab lunch before heading to the house. I had the entire rest of the day to myself, so I spent it doing a bit of exercise and then relaxing, making a few printouts (artwork, boarding passes, etc.) as needed. It’s a good way to start a convention experience.
The flights were pleasant, and in fact both were the first flights I’d ever experienced that weren’t completely booked. My connecting flight from Atlanta to Pittsburgh was neat because both seats right next to me were empty, so I had a chance to spread out a bit.
I arrived at the hotel, the Westin as before, and found there was a room ready for early check-in, but it was on the 19th floor. If I wanted a lower one, I’d have to wait until after 3pm and hope to grab something closer. At the time, I really wanted to drop off my luggage and have a place to relax away from crowds, so I opted for the 19th floor, hoping the hotel’s new elevator system would not be too troublesome.
I went up to grab the artwork for the Art Show I’d mailed the week before, and Jake found me on the way up. Good timing!
We headed up to the room and I dropped off my gear to rest a bit. Jake said the convention center, and Registration, weren’t open yet so instead I opted to grab some lunch at Bombay Gyro across the street. I’m so glad that place is still around. I can’t seem to find any gyro places where I live, so I take every opportunity I can get to grab them here.
Later, we headed for the convention center to register, only to find that not only was it still closed, a massive line had formed outside. We took our spots just in time to catch a local news van pulling up and parking nearby, and a cameraman walking down the line getting his gear ready.
The convention center soon opened and pre-regs (like me) were picked out from the long line and brought in to the designated line inside… which was also massive. Luckily, I had a Sponsor registration, bringing me to a much shorter line further on. Poor Jake, however, had to wait in the big line. I spent the remainder of time keeping him company in line. While there I found Tef in the regular pre-reg line, which was perfect because he had no way of contacting me by phone to get the room number and key.
Achievement unlocked: all roomies found!
Tef and I remained there until Jake got his registration completed. Badges in hand (or on shirts), we headed back out. We stopped in the parking garage to get Tef’s luggage, then headed up to the room and relaxed. I took the time to prep my gear for the Dealers Den and Artist Alley, and we caught some hilarious pictures on Tef’s computer.
Later on as dinnertime neared, we left to get some extra gear from Jake’s car at a parking lot a few blocks away. It turned out that Pizza Parma was right next to the lot, so I stopped there to grab dinner. Jake opted for a gyro and Tef a salad on the way back. Upon returning to the hotel we ate in the Zoo, which was still at the Westin for tonight. We didn’t see any familiar faces around, though.
We went back up to the room and chilled for a bit, catching Hook on TV (haven’t seen that in a while…).
We didn’t want to spend the whole night in the room, however. Jake needed to grab a few more items from his car, so we headed back out and, since there was no hurry and we were still right next to the convention center, I suggested we head up to the roof and sight-see. It was night time and the view was always pleasant up there.
We did just that, catching the wonderful-as-always views from the top of the convention center, including the lit-and-crowded stadium further down the river where the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing against St. Louis. Even better, we were in a perfect place to watch the post-game fireworks. There were only about twenty or so people on the deck, so everybody got to see the show without having to look over someone’s head or crowding around. Well worth the stop up here for that alone.
We finally made our way back to the parking lot to grab some drinks and other stuff from Jake’s car, and then headed back to the hotel to turn in for the night.
Early rise as expected for a Friday. I suggested the hotel’s Brown Bag Deli for breakfast, but since I had to send my order back (there was a mix-up between my and Jake’s order), I didn’t have as much time to eat as I wanted. I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to grabbing a spot in the Dealers Den line, even as a Sponsor (Sponsors get let in early), so I only took a few bites before wrapping it up and heading for the convention center.
This time, they had roped off a part of the convention center for reasons I’m still not quite clear on (I wasn’t sure if it was for crowd control, because it did not seem to make any difference). I contemplated heading to the spot where the Sponsor line began last year and wait there, but I wasn’t sure if they would use the same spot again, so I remained near the ropes to catch any announcements. As it turned out, nothing had changed, and the line formed quickly (in last year’s location) before I realized it. I still got a decent spot, though.
From there, it was just waiting for a couple hours. Jake had no hurry to get in, so he headed out for a bit. I texted him with a request to grab my artwork for the Art Show, which he did, and then watched my gear in line as I set everything up there. It was then that I realized I need to request more panels in the Art Show. I think I crowded all my artwork…
I returned to the Den line and hung out there with Jake keeping me company until the Den finally opened.
From there, I made my usual rounds, saying hi to numerous artists and friends I had not seen in a year or more. And, of course, there came the commission drop-offs.
Name-drop time! Let’s see… Over the course of the day (and next day too) I visited: Ebony Leopard, gNAW, Max Blackrabbit, DAQ, LizardBeth, Aerokat, Dark Natasha, the FurPlanet crew, Kitt Mouri, Boneitis, David & Liz Lille (Dreamkeepers), Diana H. Stein, Michele Light, Red Dog, Jen Kiwi, Spunky, Gideon, Mitch D.L.G., Kmanic, Ferris, Kyote, DC Rabbit, Tygurstar, and Fluff Kevlar.
While normally I would spend hours there, this year I wanted to see Jake in the Open Mic panel. I missed out on his first comedy act at last year’s MFF, and was determined to see him here at Anthrocon. Tef and I headed out in time to watch him and others perform. I must say, there were some amazing performances, Jake included! I love stand-up comedy and I really liked a lot of them that came up.
Afterwards we headed back up to the room. I dropped off my purchases and finished off my breakfast sandwich, taking a break from the busy morning/early afternoon.
I later headed back to the convention center for more Den stuff, chatting with Diana Harlan Stein and Michele Light for a bit while there. I noticed at this point that hours have passed and there were still people (with dealer tables) I had not said hi to yet; the convention has gotten that big! At the same time I think it’s a sign that I’ve been making more friends. Not bad for an introvert…
I headed out before the Den closed in hopes of beating the crowds. Found my buddy Kalahari while standing in the elevator line, but had to part ways as he already had a prior commitment. Dropped stuff off in room, then headed back down. Another dinner in the Zoo, this time a gyro again and the Zoo having moved to the convention center to accommodate the massive number of attendees. Jake, Tef, and I conversed for a bit, but the whole place was a bit too loud and… concretish? We headed upstairs to the hallway overlooking Hall B. Much more crowded than expected, but we decided to stay nonetheless since Jake had found a plug to charge his phone with and an empty bench next to it. The two of us started on a collab piece of one of Tef’s characters to pass the time, during which I got a few nifty art tips for future works.
Before long, it was time for the Dealer Reception to begin. The three of us headed down to Hall C, where the Art Show was located, and got in as guests of mine.
Really good pieces this year! Sadly, there were no bids on any of mine, save for one in the mature section. Maybe my prices were too high.
Jake would be appearing in the preshow for Whose Lion is it Anyway? so we headed there afterwards. As expected, he did well in the preshow and plenty of laughs were had during the program itself.
I returned to the room afterwards and got to bed.
Overslept a bit this morning. The three of us had breakfast at Halon’s Café, finding it still a good place for a meal, though the hours were rather odd this year (opening later, closing earlier), making me wonder if it was either understocked or under new management.
I arrived at the Den just after it opened for Sponsors, so no waiting in line but running the risk of missing out on commission slots from the quickly-filled artists. Luckily I had gotten most of those yesterday and was in no hurry. I would spend the next few hours there, wandering around, checking out various tables, and chatting with friends. Before I knew it, the Fursuit Parade had begun, and this year it had an outside portion where residents of Pittsburgh could stop by and see all the fursuiters. I expected it to be popular, given all the lights set up and roads blocked off under the convention center, but at the time I would not be able to see for myself just how much. I wound up trapped in the middle section of the Dealers Den. Still I did not have anything else to do and no reason to leave, so I remained there with Cdr. Kitsune, who was visiting briefly, and chatted while watching the parade go by. Only after it ended did I learn just how many people came out to see the parade.
An estimated five-thousand-plus.
Wow, I guess it was inevitable. We’ve been here for over ten years; of course the city’s residents would want to see what all the hubbub was about, and here they wouldn’t even need to purchase a registration. The turnout, and public response, was both massive and positive from everyone I talked to about it. The city really does love us!
By that time my feet were killing me. I went back to the hotel room to rest. Thanks to the filling breakfast at Hanlon’s I wasn’t hungry yet, so I simply relaxed.
Later on I got a text from Jake to meet up, so Tef and I headed back to the convention center. By then hunger was starting to make itself known, and Jake was in the mood for some dinner as well. After turning in a lost art badge to Con Ops, we headed out to eat at Sharp Edge. Great food as before—I opted for a BBQ burger this time. Jake and I got to comment on an episode of American Ninja Warrior that was playing on the bar TVs while eating. The show kinda makes me wonder what I could do with a fitness plan like those guys…
We returned to the hotel and chilled in one of the new lounges, situated where the hotel’s gift shop used to be before its renovation. I liked this spot much better than the Zoo, due to a warmer atmosphere, comfy furniture, and a lack of crowds (well, prevalence of crowds can’t be helped in the Zoo). Jake went along with some of the other comedians and Tef was waiting to meet an artist in the lobby, and after spending the entire day in the presence of people, I felt this would be a good time to head back to the room and recharge.
I did just that. One of the things I’ve learned about being an introvert is that crowds don’t have to be entirely avoided, but they can have an exhausting effect after prolonged exposure. We need some alone time to settle ourselves and rest from all the activity. I took the time to relax and read some of the comics I had purchased.
Tef arrived later on and the room offered a perfect view of the setting sun. We had a chance to enjoy the scene while chatting. We could even see the stadium lights at PNC Park where the Pirates were playing another game, and this time the famous Goodyear blimp floated overhead in a pattern perfect for watching it from our room.
After a while, though, I decided I had rested enough. The night was young, and even as an admitted introvert, I refuse to spend an entire convention night holed up in my room. There’s too much I might miss otherwise! Maybe I’m actually coming out of my shell…
Tef and I headed down to street level. My sweet tooth was calling, so I snagged an ice cream bar (Snickers) from the kwik-e-mart across from the hotel and then we made our way to the convention center. Even in the short distance between the store and the convention center, we saw: a Maserati, a Tuk-Tuk filled with fursuits, and a DeLorean. See, that’s what I would have missed if I had sequestered myself up there.
We headed to the Zoo, but found it too loud and rowdy. Okay, so I’m coming out of my shell in gradual steps…
I opted instead for the bridge hallway overlooking Hall B. This time, it wasn’t as crowded and there was even a nifty violinist strutting his stuff nearby. Tef and I sat down on one of the benches and I whipped out my notepad. I wanted to jot down some ideas on a brand new story I had come up with after seeing some of brilliant artwork of 0r0chi’s earlier that day at the Dakimura table. This one sees a return to a magic/technology fusion concept that I’ve been experimenting with, featuring a group of African ungulates who happen to be Tech Sorceresses. Inspiration flows free at these cons, and even writing this con report over a week later I’m still developing this concept with the fervor expected of an exciting new project. I was also happy with the fact that I’ve been trying for years to make a decent set of characters out of African ungulates (such striking designs!), but could not come up with any ideas that stuck with me until now.
Soon after NightEyes came by and stopped to chat, as he had some time before one of his panels. Later on, Ocean Tigrox dropped by, and I was glad to finally meet him since he’s the editor for an anthology that recently accepted one of my story submissions. Always great to put a face to the fursona.
I got a text from Jake wanting to meet, so my next stop was back in the Westin, in what used to be the Zoo, but was now a dance floor for fursuiters (separate from the Dance in the DLCC’s Ballroom).
I stopped by to hang out and watch the various fursuiters show off their moves. As always, it’s something I like watching, but wouldn’t dream of trying myself. Waaaay too self-conscious.
Before long, I realized how late it was. I bid Jake goodnight and headed back up to the room to sleep.
Tef had to leave early, so it was just Jake and myself at breakfast (Hanlon’s again).
Being that it was Sunday, there was no rush to get in line for the Dealers Den; no quickly-filled commission queues today. We arrived only a few minutes before Sponsor opening, and still had a close spot to the door. When I got in, went around mostly window shopping and chatting with artist friends, since I had hit my budget. I also went to the Art Show, wondering if any of my pieces sold.
Only one in the mature show… and a single bid in general. I’m happy that I got bid on, though perhaps I did set my prices too high this year…
Jake and I wandered the Den and Alley some more, stopping by a few tables to chat. He then suggested we check out the Fursuit Dance Competition, so we did that next. I was seriously amazed at the talent shown there, and what was even neater was the fact that Anthrocon was streaming the entire event, and it reached one of the top streams on Livestream! We stayed for the entire thing, and afterwards it actually got me pondering my thoughts last night about dancing in suit. I’ve done choreographed dances before, so I know how to move, but on my own I’m terrified of doing it in front of people. In a suit, however… Would it truly be that difficult to try this in the future? With an American Ninja Warrior-inspired fitness routine? That whole coming out of my shell thing…
After the competition ended I went to pick up my unsold artwork from the Art Show. Since Jake had driven to the convention, I asked if he would be willing to carry my artwork back with him and mail it to me since I couldn’t fit it into my carry-on, to which he said yes. Great! That’s a headache easily resolved that won’t be bothering me for the rest of the day.
The time for Den closing was coming up soon, so we went around saying our goodbyes to our artist friends and headed out for dinner before the crowds swelled out.
Bill’s Bar & Burger replaced the Westin’s Fish Market restaurant, and since it was close and not full, we decided to give them a try. The food was excellent, and the chili cheese fries order was big enough to be an entire meal on its own!
After dinner, we headed out to the parking lot to check on Jake’s car, getting rained on in the process. The car seemed okay, but the rain was still pouring the entire way back. We returned to the hotel and dried off, taking the time to relax before whatever our night activities would be.
That turned out to be the Zoo. However, the Zoo had moved back to the Westin by the time we got there. Upon arriving back in the Westin’s Zoo, we found it still had the same set-up of chairs-and-dance-floor as last night—no tables. Luckily, tables were soon brought in and we managed to nab one. I went to work finishing the inks on our collab, then tried to sketch out one of the characters I had been contemplating for my new Tech Sorceress idea. Sadly, by then I think I was already feeling burn-out from all the activity throughout the day, and did not get very far with it. Not too burnt out to continue developing idea notes for the concept, however. I pulled out my notepad and continued jotting down ideas.
Later on, we were joined by a couple of convention goers, such as Spaceweasel. NightEyes and Ocean also dropped by for a few minutes, as well as dabunnyman (complete with a seriously-old-school sketchbook filled with artwork from “old guard” artists back in the 90’s—the kind I admired when I first discovered furry, and still do even today!). Indigo also stopped by to hang out at the table. She even drew me a nifty bit of gift art! As the night wound down, we were then joined by Gneech, Sir Fox, and Bucephalus. I admit I did not expect Sunday Night to be so fun when the convention was officially over, but plenty of laughs were had at that table up until they began clearing out the ballroom near midnight. Alas, it was time to pack up.
It really made me consider what it would be like if the con lasted an extra day… If Wednesday was what is currently Thursday, as far as convention stuff… What could we do with all that extra time? Would we even be able to afford it? Hmm… ponder ponder…
I finished packing up in my room and said goodbye to Jake, with hopes of being able to attend MFF this year as well. Anthrocon 2015 was over, and its last night was quite pleasant.
Not much to say here. Got up way early to catch my flight, and was surprised to see as many people in the lobby as I did. I suppose they had early shuttles, as well. The line at the airport’s TSA security check was massive, even going out the doors, but they were picking a few with small parties to head to the expedited pre-check line to help keep it moving. I got picked for it too, so no removing my shoes/belt/liquids, and onward to the terminal!
The flights home were fine, I arrived safely at my house, and had the rest of the day off to relax from the convention experience. Another great time had been had, and was now over. Back to the grind…
Anthrocon 2015 was a great experience. I had a good time hanging with old friends, meeting a few new ones, and yes, even coming a little bit more out of my shell (I admit I still have thoughts about that dance). Plus, I’ve got a fun new story concept to work on!
Here’s to another great year, and may next year be even better!
Listening to: "So So Bad (Scattavox Remix)" by Blue Stahli