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Furries Q&A: Event draws many in animal costumes

ROSEMONT — A chlorine gas evacuation turned a suburban Chicago hotel into what looked like a cartoon come to life, as people dressed in brightly colored rabbit, fox and dragon costumes were moved across the street to a convention center.

The attendees of the Midwest FurFest were celebrating anthropomorphic animal characters — meaning they’ve been given human characteristics — through art, literature and performance.

But many others who were part of the evacuation but not dressed as animals wondered: Who are these characters?

People walk on the street outside of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill., on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Rosemont, Ill. Thousands of people were evacuated after an chlorine gas leak at the Hyatt hotel hosting the 2014 Midwest FurFest convention, where attendees dress as animals to celebrate art, literature and performance, in suburban Rosemont early Sunday morning. Investigators believe the leak at the hotel in Rosemont was caused intentionally and are treating it as a criminal matter. | Nam Y. Huh / AP

Some questions about FurFest:


The annual convention draws thousands of “furries” who come together in the Chicago suburbs to celebrate furry fandom or art, literature and performance based around anthropomorphic animals, according to the FurFest website.

Attendees said they came for fun, but also for the spiritual and artistic aspects of the convention that have them celebrating animal characters from movies, TV shows, comic books and video games. Some also create their own characters.


The festival’s roots go back to the furry programming track of Duckon, an annual science fiction convention. The furry track eventually grew enough to support its own convention. In 1999, Midwest Furry Fandom Inc. was created. FurFest was born shortly after and took place in November 2000 on the weekend before Thanksgiving. That date became tradition, until this year — the event’s 15th year, according to the website.


In many ways a FurFest is like other conventions. There are panel discussions about costume design and other cartoon and character-related presentations, as well as dances and life performances. There are art and jewelry displays. Attendees go to dances and take part in dance contests inside the hotel and aerobic dancing outside. The festival also raises money for wildlife- and animal-related charities, according to its website.