User:GreenReaper/Con reports/Midwest FurFest 2006
Welcome to GreenReaper's con report for Midwest FurFest 2006! I was looking forward to this one. Midwest FurFest 2005 was my first furry convention - my first fan convention of any kind - and it had been exceedingly good. You can read more about it in my previous con report. Since then, though, I'd visited ConClave 31 and Anthrocon 2006, each with their own charms. Would I find MFF somewhat lacking now? Read on to find out . . .
I was able to get into the furry mood before even stepping onto the plane, thanks to a plush toy gift shop called The Stylish Paw. I had a fine flight into Midway airport - the weather was a little windy, but nothing excessive, and there was plenty of room on the plane. My only concern was making the connecting coach to O'Hare, but as it turned out my luggage made it off the airplane and was waiting for me as I left the washroom. As it happened, there was only one other passenger on the coach, and I spent half an hour chatting to him about WikiFur and the furry fandom in general. Stepping off the coach, I met JaeSharp, who had arrived literally minutes before. We then had to find our third rider, DukeFawks, who was arriving from the Netherlands. This involved looking for the transit system (which was easy enough) and then figuring out how exactly to get onto it, which took a little longer.
Having found our furry friend, we trekked back to the car, and made off for the con. Unfortunately we made a wrong turn and went east down Golf Road - almost ending up in Lake Michigan! We finally figured out the right direction and arrived around 5 PM (on the way in, we had a good laugh at the store offering a free pet photo shoot - I can think of a few attendees who might have brought their friends ;-). We got in, bid farewell to DukeFawks, convinced the hotel to give us some room keys (it was a good thing that mwalimu had added my name to the room) and dropped off our stuff. We checked out registration in the main hall, but they were still setting up. By that time we were both getting pretty peckish, and since neither of us were in the mood for any more driving, we headed over the road to the to the Olive Garden. I had a nice chicken pasta dish, while Jae went with the lasagna - I think we were both satisfied with our meals, though there are cheaper options.
After an hour or so we headed back to registration, which has begun in our absence. What's more, they had cotton candy! Not that I had one - I was fairly full, and there was another dessert available - ice-cream with toppings. I guess they were trying to outdo the milk and cookies that were left out in the Zoo at Anthrocon. Kinda made up for the fact that the pre-reg line was miles longer than the walk-up registration line. :-) We met up with mwalimu there, along with ElectroPaw, Rebekah, and a few others. By that time I was getting pretty tired, and I ended up visiting the Internet Room with Jae to check mail and WikiFur (bumping into PolyKardia on the way), then just headed off to bed.
I obviously needed to recover from the week before, as I got around 10-11 hours of sleep, waking to find JaeSharp and mwalimu already up and about. I took a quick shower, then we all headed out to the mall to grab a bite to eat at what turned out to be McDonalds (almost the only place open at 9:45, and I didn't feel like a Cinnabon). The mall had their Christmas decorations up, and I must admit it looked reasonably impressive. We got back around 10:30, and mwalimu went up to get his puppet for the meet and greet. I had a chat with Gray Coyote and Mycroft, and then dropped into the puppet event. They were just setting up the stage in the main room, and I got to see the Raquel and the Raccuties and the main MFF banner for this year, as well as KinkyTurtle and TwinBlade, who was suffering from puppy parasitism. Lots of Folkmanis puppets (photo title).
Checking around the lobby, I saw the artists had already set themselves up in what used to be "Smoker's Corner" - now officially smoke-free by local ordinance. The hotel was offering a buffet table, filled with pizza, sandwiches, sweets and cookies. Their prices were a little too high for my liking, and I think a lot of people preferred the con suite, but it was nice to have the option. I wandered around a bit, dropping off some WikiFur flyers - they were playing Blokus in the game room, and many of the dealers were set up already.
Soon enough, it was time for the opening ceremonies. The room wasn't packed - many furs were still arriving, or waking up - but there were still plenty on hand to greet the Guests of Honor: Spunky, WhiteyFawks and Kyoht. This led nicely into the Meet the GoH session.
 Random Quote Time
Kyoht: "I always drew, so my parents sent me to art school."
Linnaeus: "How long have you been fursuiting?"
WhiteyFawks: "Since I was a fetus. Halloween costumes, beer money." (He went on to explain that he was doing a degree in environmental science and the company he was working for went bust, so he transitioned into costuming.)
Spunky: "I just grew up liking costumes - I thought 'I wanna draw Garfield!', and then it was Roger Rabbit, and then I just wanted to go on from there. My parents said "NO!" so I went to a tech school and get a degree in electronic media."
WhiteyFawks: I'm a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil; I've done mascotting for the last fifteen years. Working with the Olympics, world amateurs, part of their costume corps. Helping Paws, a non-profit group in Vancouver and Toronto, charity stuff, triathlon events. Hidy and Howdy [the mascots of the 1988 Winter Olympics got me started in costuming; I saw them at the Olympics and said "Oh my god, they're so cool!"
Kyoht: "I . . . really like books . . . and I read the whole encyclopedia of World Books, so it kinda made me crazy . . ."
Linnaeus: "Were you interested in dinosaurs since early on?"
Kyoht: "Obsessed, since I was like 5, began reading paleontology books and I am still influenced by folklore and talking animals."
linnaeus: "Is that how you ended up in Utah?"
Kyoht: "No, just because we ended up in Utah . . . but there are raptors there!"
Linnaeus: "So, speaking of butts . . ."
Tango: "[Spunky] - about the yellow pyo - where does that come from?"
Spunky: "He has a wonderful backstory that's really stupid. Po-pyo - I got my sister a pyo for her 16 birthday - looked nothing like the character. It became my character Spunkuy's little pet, familiar, and I like round things . . . Pyo talks like this - he likes to say hi, and what are you doing?"
Tango: "How did you choose your name?"
Kyoht: "When I was a little kid I always used to pretend to be Wily Coyote, so when I was like 13 I was doing it and camping with a friend and 'you sound just like a coyote?' So Kyoht - and so my whole family calls me Kyoht, and my doctor calls me Kyoht, so I figured I'd change my name."
WhiteyFawks: "WhiteyFawks came about because whitefox was not available on AIM. It's just that simple. The original name came from bulletin boards and I just needed a name - arctic fox wasn't available, so a friend from Ecuador said 'we just call them white foxes,' so I used that. I was bored out of my mind one day and I found this Ecuadoran bulletin board . . ."
Spunky: "I'm just spunkywolf because spunky wasn't available on AIM."
Linaneus: "How much time does it take you for a full fursuit?"
WhiteyFawks: "Depends on the fursuit, a really simple simple thing could knockup in a day. Pyo would take forever because it would have to be perfect. Generally, four weeks."
Kyoht: "A sketch can take anywhere from two to eight hours - depending on research; a graphite thing would be 10 to 12 hours, and a fully painted thing would take around 20 hours."
Linnaeus: "Have you ended up through commissions finding some kind of critter that you didn't know about? And what's up with the aye-ayes?"
Kyoht: "We were talking about what would make a really good villain and we were just talking over coffee and she said "aye-ayes" and I just got totally obsessed with them (the things on the back of the conbook)."
Kyoht: "What's the deal with that finger? They have a ball and socket joint and they use it like a coat hanger and stick it in there and pull out the bugs - they're looking for hollow parts and listen with their ears."
WhiteyFawks: "Why the two-headed cow?"
Kyoht: "One of my relatives had a farm when they were young, and one of their cows gave birth to a two-headed cow, and back then it was really uncommon for a two-headed cow to live, and they displayed the two-headed cow until it died, and at our family greetings we had this banner of the two-headed cow; and my family won't give it to me . . ."
Spunky: "What was it like doing a daily cartoon? Aaron McGruder? He himself is an nice man and an asshole of a businessman. The comic for the following week needed to be delivered for Tuesday of the final week. He'd give me the scripts Monday night and expected it on Tuesday morning, and the Sunday strip was done on Wednesday for Thursday. I dd the comic from 2003 to 2004, so all his time was devoted to the show. It was a rewarding experience because it was great to get the opportunity to work on a syndicated cartoon."
WhiteyFawks; "We typically do most things on a per-item basis. If we were going for mass-production we would do vacuum moulding, because it's always on-model."
Linnaeus: "How much would the normal fursuit cost?"
WhiteyFawks: "The word 'normal' does not apply. $600 to $40,000 - an Olympic project would be a quarter of a million dollars. I actually priced out an animatronic dragon at $42000 - the guy wanted it for $400."
Linnaeus: "What's been the most interesting challenge?"
WhiteyFawks: "The dragon. And the guy who wanted an animatronic project to be 12 feet tall - basically it would have been an hamster ball inside. I'd have had to buy an arc-welder. And this guy wanted a giant macaw, interchangeable wing packs, wanted to be able to scuba dive and rappel down buildings - they're aquatic birds, they can scuba dive!"
Linnaeus: "What's the most difficult things you've tried to draw?"
Spunky: "ummm - circle?"
Kyoht: "I think the worst thing I had to do was a moseosaurus and I just couldn't get the skin right because they're like whales and I couldn't get the skin shaded."
Spunky: "The worst for me would be Homer - simple, and so if if you don't things details right it looks completely wrong - it's such a far cry from my usual commissions."
Linnaeus: "What's the most common [thing you're asked for]?"
WhiteyFawks: "I'd agree with that. Lots of dogs."
Kyoht: "Coyotes. All the time."
Tango: "What's the oddest material you've had to work with to create a piece of art?"
Linnaeus: "We were thinking of doing an iron artist, iron fursuiter things, with the cotton candy from Thursday night, but it didn't quite work out . . ."
 Lazy wanderings
The GoH session ended around 40 past the hour. Typing the above quotes had worn out my laptop, so I headed up to my room to grab the power cord. I got back down from there and caught the end of the puppetry session, which was just describing a few resources - Making Puppets Come Alive, The Foam Book, the Puppeteers of America (which has useful things like how-to videos, puppeteer performances captured over the last 40 to 50 years, and liability insurance), The Complete Book of Puppetry. I then continued down the hall to the "Fursuit Safety" session led by StuntTiger. There was a lot of talk about how best to fall, and ways to avoid getting into trouble that causes you to fall in the first place (always the best approach). Other topics mentioned were avoiding dehydration, scouting out the area first, and the succinct advice to "Avoid Midway". We also saw Calamity try for a tumble - it didn't quite work the first time, but practice (and a harder floor) makes perfect!
There wasn't really anything I wanted to see on the schedule after that, so I popped into the Internet Room to catch up on email and to check on WikiFur. Naturally, I had been sent a specification to review over the weekend. Ahh, Stardock - where vacations are a good time to get contract work done. ;-) To kill some time, I went to the Dealers Den, where I bought Volle and Pendant of Fortune and met a few occasional WikiFur contributors to give them their cards. I then ventured into Artists' Alley, where I gave out just one card.
 Fursuits galore
Wandering down to the Country Fur Pageant, I found Calamity Cougar already doing his best to convince people to vote for him. There were eleven contestants in total - a blue-furred cat who I recognized as Cobalt, a sweetly-dressed Scandinavian feline, another similarly-dressed winged cat (Serenity), a black puppy, a very red dog and a more tan-shaded one, Calamity, a tall anteater called "Thbbpppt" played by Pewter, and three humans - two of which hadn't made much effort, and a third who had gone for a classic white bunny approach.
The Scandinavian dress won the day, with second and third going to the anteater and tan dog. Alas, all of Calamity's vote-grubbing had come to nothing - he tried a grandstanding baton-throw, and ended up dropping it, along with any chance of an award. Still, he got to settle with his 'consolation prize' . . .
By then I was feeling rather peckish, so I headed off to the con suite, which was just clearing out - probably because Uncle Kage's Story Hour was starting. After refilling on chips, salsa, cheese puffs, and a couple of Oreos (plus one Mountain Dew), I wandered along to "Fursuiting for Fun and Profit", narrowly avoiding getting zapped by a cute little alien called Frazzle. As it happened, I ended up catching the end of the Fursuit Meet and Greet. The one clear memory I have from that is lots of padded clapping. :-)
Panda: "My name is Panda, and I am an alcoholic . . . wait a minute, that's what this meeting is about, right?"
In the Fun and Profit session - far smaller, due to the other shows on - Benjamin (not our Benjamin) told us how he'd got his break as a mascot because the previous guy quit and he had asked to be their backup. Apparently he doesn't make much, but it's nice beer money. WhiteyFawks does make serious money out of his small business constructing mascots and fursuits. He personally does the harder "proof of concept" work, while his employees work from standard patterns. Around 80% of his work is furry fandom work, although he does not advertise it specifically as such. He also advised prospective makers to consider using upholstry thread - the only real trouble is that it's not available in as many colours, and doesn't work in all sewing machines. Apparently Europe is his best source for the more realistic furs, since fur coats are more fashionable there.
On a more practical side, WhiteyFawks claimed that Endbac II is the key to keeping the insides fresh, although other products may be required to avoid that "hospital" smell, such as Febreeze (which contains cyclodextrin, as opposed to Endbac's ammonium chloride). Benjamin noted that fire hose driers are perfect for drying fursuits, though few have access to them. Both agreed that if you are performing, you should take care of a costume for the people who own it.
At the next panel, I got to meet Lorianna, the bubble-tailed fox from Second Life. The topic was "Playful Awakenings", though the subject matter was a little more serious than that, focussing on how people linked their fursona and online roleplaying to their real-life selves, and what effect it had on their lives. Dali Wolf commented that "[Furry fandom] definitely keeps me from getting old and bitter," and another made the comment that "everybody here wants to be playful and funny."
"Can I suck on your tail so I can talk funny?" -- said to Lorianna on her helium-filled tail.
After that, I went to another introspective session - the therianthropy event, led (mostly) by Innerewolf and Dali. Like furry fans, therians often feel that they are misunderstood, and it does seem easy to mistake it as simply "thinking you're an animal", just as furries are seen as "dressing up as animals". There was lots of talk about the aspects of totems, particularly wolf and cat (naturally, Stalking Cat was present). The room had a distinctly different atmosphere, with dimmed lights and a "circle' (well, triangle) of chairs, which helped encourage discussion. Age was variable - it certainly wasn't all greymuzzles in attendance.
 Late night fun
By the end of all that talking, I was ready for another drink from the con suite. Wandering around the halls, I happened upon the AstronoFurs. Sadly for them, the weather was cloudy, but I did manage to pick up at leaflet about stars in the region, as well as a good deal of information about the different sort of telescopes available for amateur astronomy. I also ran into the bat from Furloween, who was terrorizing Spunky. At ten, I left to join a small party at Duncan and Takaza's suite. I was greeted by staff from various cons, a few visiting guests, and lots of alcohol, some in chocolate cups (I was drinking water). Spunky later made an appearance, along with a very enthusiastic doggie. Unfortunately, said doggie made the mistake of coming on to Takaza in a very . . . enthusiastic way, and he paid for it - with his head!
I departed around 11:45 to queue for the Variety Show, which started in accordance with tradition (30 minutes late). As the name suggests, there were a number of acts, each slightly more crazy than the last. I've heard some people say that the show this year wasn't as good as last. Having seen both, I have to agree. 2005 was very good, though, and I was not disappointed with the 2006 show. Raquel and the Raccuties made several appearances, and there were many fun gags, even when they were based on popular culture that I didn't know (like the wolf with a big clocks hanging on its chest). I liked the sword-eating dragon, too! My main complaint was that there was nothing on the level of last year's tear-jerker, Velveteen.
After the late-light variety, I slept until 10. Upon waking, I decided to visit the holiday puppet show, where I was treated to a stunning rendition of such classics as When You See The Jolly Roger and Who Says You Can't Go Home. I also found it hard to forget "Alberquerque", or the Three Little Pigs (Green Jellÿ's version), which was also a variety act. I headed up to the Internet Room to catch the second half of the "Furry on the Web" panel, which concerned FurryMUCK, VCL, Second Life, the Internet Furry Proximity Locator . . . and, naturally, WikiFur.
By then I was getting pretty peckish. I had arranged to meet JaeSharp in the lobby for lunch, though I actually bumped into mwalimu and ElectroPaw as well. First, of course, we had to figure out where to go. We finally settled on the House of Huan, a nearby Chinese restaurant which offered a lunch buffet. It was satisfyingly filling, and cheaper than the Italian over the road. Unfortunately, we missed the record-breaking fursuit parade, but I did manage to get in a short photo session with the thirty or so fursuiters who were left playing outside. I then dropped into the real photo shoot, both to clear off my memory card and to get a look at some of the posing suiters. Seeing Frazzle again just made me want a suit of my own, though I don't know how they'd manage the mohawk . . .
 Charity auction
Kage: "Obviously a poor girl, she can hardly afford clothes!"
Attendee: "Are you a practicing homo-sapien?"
Kage: "No, I do it very well, thank you!"
Kage: "And, the next item is . . . .a drink for me!"
2: "If we could auction off having to drink, I wouldn't need a job!"
Kage: "It's . . . square!"
2: "That's a rectangle, you putz."
Kage: "It's an . . . irregular square! And it's got a lion on it!"
2 (selling a wallet, and reading the card inside): "You will be John L Doe at Anytown, USA, 12345"
Kage: "Says 'Kage, do not eat the donation'"
2: "Hey, so it does!"
2: "What's it made of?"
Kage: "It's made out of rug - what do you think, it's a rug!"
Attendee: "Does the head come with it?"
Kage: "That's spoken for 11pm this night"
2: "Hey, I decide who I give my head to!"
I bid on several items, and actually won two - a lovely picture by Watergazer entitled Cheese Please, and a video of Cats. The "night with 2 and Kage" (which debuted last year) went immediately to RB for $500; other hotly-contested items were the aforequoted movie poster of The Lion King, Spunky's 5-minute ice-cream social sign, the laminated back of a menu with (I think) Kyoht's scribblings, and two 50-packs of Pixy Stix. All in all, the auction raised the significant sum of $5770. Afterwards I popped behind the stage to have a look - the setup was pretty high-tech, with no less than five screens for puppeteers to see how they were looking.
 Evening entertainment
Dropping off my winnings at our room, I proceeded to the fursuit games, the highlight of which appeared to be a giant game of musical chairs which took 30 minutes to complete. There were several instances of shenanigans - Wildfox tied himself to a chair, while Camper the fox and a cream-coloured canine got into a fight after the canine pushed Camper out of a chair. The referee - also fursuited - had to be called in to sort it all out. While a dog (possibly Chance) walked away with that particular price, Panda was the overall winner. Afterwards I was lucky enough to witness the formation of an authentic furpile (as opposed to the sort you see on CSI).
Then there was the dance. Those present at last year's disco may be aware that I enjoyed myself far too much. Well, that didn't change a bit this year! There's something about dancing with wolves - and cats, and strange aliens from distant lands - that really does it for me. PolyKardia was kind enough to give me one of her green glowsticks, and I raved on the dancefloor for hours. For about half an hour I was tailed by Jim Groat's 2-year-old daughter, who was obviously having a fantastic time as well, running straight across the dance floor several times, and after me on more than one occasion (Xydexx may remember that part).
As the night wore on, the lights grew dimmer and the beats grew stronger, yet I was surprised to see the number of fursuiters remaining relatively high. No doubt this was due in part to the comprehensive headless lounge, plus the sheer number of suiters present. To cool off myself, I dropped into the late-night "Weird Movies from the Net" session, which was packed. One quote should be enough to set the tone - "When I was at the hospital, working in radiology, the worst we had was a wine stem glass - and it had broken off." I'll leave the context to your imagination! Last year, I stayed up all night watching these, but after six solid hours of dancing I just couldn't face it, and after half an hour I decided to head off to bed. Besides, I had plans for the morning . . .
I have no idea how, but I managed to wake up at 8:50 - just in time to race downstairs to take notes on the Midwest Furry Fandom board meeting.
 Board meeting
After a certain point, conventions pretty much have to be run like small corporations or charities, with officers, boards, and by-laws, and MFF is no different. That badge you're wearing isn't just for show - it signifies your membership of the corporation, which is what permits attendance at the convention. The board appoints a convention chairman (usually in July), who's job it is to organise the con itself. They have at least one public meeting a year, and this was it.
The mood was jubilant - the convention had broken records for attendance, charity auction and art show receipts - even before the art auction! Better yet, there had been no fire alarm! The running total was 1429 people, which would increase by 12 over the next few hours. There were 156 sponsors, enough that the sponsor's gifts had to be re-ordered. There was some talk of selling the surplus, but the board decided that the tax hassles were not worth it, and they were instead slated for distribution to convention staff. Duncan commented that "evidently when you increase the sponsor rate by $30 you get a 50% increase in sponsors - I say we raise it to $200". The real reason? "I have two words: Sponsor lunch." Indeed, it was good last year.
Finances were doing well, too, with around $48000 in the bank balance. The treasurer reported that things had "been going exceptionally smoothly". Apparently the ice-cream mixer cost $4000, and the lunch was another $2000 for the extra sponsors - I'm guessing that meant it cost around $6000 total. Food ain't cheap! Still, there was obviously plenty left in the kitty, and the now-traditional doubling of the charity funds passed unanimously. There was talk about maintaining past charities with some of the rest, but there was also interest in inviting next year's by making a donation up-front: "Here's a big chunk - you're going to get some more later." One of the board members suggested visiting various charities with a top hat and a diamond-capped cane, though no vote was held on the purchase of such equipment.
The hotel was "very happy with us. There have been no issues." Apparently MFF had racked up 1218 room nights with the hotel, which made the contractual rollovers that help to pay off part of the bill. Ever wondered why conventions are so keen on you getting the "convention rate", even though it's often no better than the standard rate? Now you know!
After that, the floor was opened to general comments. Takaza suggested moving the meeting to noon, which gained general agreement. There was one complaint raised - Yarrick noted that "Gaming was a kind of guest," saying that "the games were donated by people, we never had access to games donated to the convention." From where I was standing, the problem appeared to be partly a lack of space, and partly a lack of time to devote to it. As it happened, a lot of gaming would go on later that night.
The art auction was a bit of a concern, with 65 pieces - 38 PG, and 17 adult, even after raising the number of bids allowed to five. Apparently Kage was worried that 2 hours might not be enough. Takaza noted that numerous dealers were "making a lot of money compared with years past." In particular, the "shiny badge man" (a non-fur) was "making money hand and fist." Ahh, furs do love their shinies . . .
As for 2007? "We should throw a convention - same place, same time." Apparently, the only reason the Amerisuites hotel (soon to be a Hyatt Place) sold out of rooms at is that the convention didn't get a room block early enough; not anticipating the sharp increase in demand, they only reserved 30-40 rooms of the 120 available. After a short debate over modifying the requirement for pre-announced board meetings, the re-elections began - half of the existing board members, the officers of the corporation, and Linnaeus as the chariman for next year. All passed without much fuss, although Linnaeus did request an implantable defibrillator.
With the meeting over, I went back to the room to have a shower and a drink, then headed back down to the Furry Futures and Furry Genetics panels. They ended up as one extended panel, covering technologies that might provide features we hoped to see, such as wings, tails, or fur. There was agreement that cosmetic changes that didn't affect the gene line of future generations would probably happen sooner or later, but that traits passed down to their children might have to wait for it to become essential - for example, going out into space and high-radiation environments. It got rather ethical at one point, coming down to the eternal discussion of whether or not only humans could be judged as people. I'm a member of the "doing things because we could" faction, but that's just me . . .
I was still recovering from last night, and had another bite to eat at the con suite, where I listened in to some discussion between a few long-time convention organizers. Apparently the maximum reasonable number of conventions is four, staffing at two - anything more makes you go crazy! Brushing off the crumbs from my dry muesli, I popped into the falconry panel, where I got the same sort of feeling that mundanes probably get when hearing about the furry fandom. It seems to be based on a mixture of love and respect for the birds, which is understandable enough - as was one audience member's smile when the Red-tailed Hawk came up on screen.
Afterwards, I wandered across to the fursuit animatronics presentation, and into an amusing story about Abraham Lincon at the 1964 World Fair. Apparently Disney made a robot that looked like Lincon and it broke, spewing red hydraulic fluid that made it look like they were trying to simulate the death of Lincon. Highly unfortunate! There was lots of talk about the various kinds of servos, motors and pneumatics that you might be interested in using in fursuits (hydraulics and muscle wire were suggested, too, but both were dismissed as impractical - the hydraulics because of size and weight, the muscle wire because it just didn't have the strength).
 Races and closing ceremonies
All too soon, it was time for the county fair races. As it happened, they were running late, and I managed to get a good seat up front. Like the beauty pageant, contestants were an odd mix of human, fursuiter, and somewhere in-between.
One of the more notable was a giant goat. I got a good look at his tag:
 Billy D. Goat's vital statistics
- Owner: Santa Fox Farms
- Breed: Alpine
- Markings: Grey with White
- Height: 3'8" At Shoulders
- Weight: 105 Pounds
- Disposition: Lively But Friendly
- Appetite: Voracious
- Diet: Anything He Can Find
The games consisted of a variety of drag races, cumulating in the ultimate challenge - dragging five plush toys around the course on a sheet. Amazingly enough, Cobalt managed to keep all his toys and finish first.
The closing ceremonies were setting up as the games concluded, opening with a quick summary of the records broken - 1441 attendees, over 156 of which were sponsors. As the increase in sponsors had corresponded with an increase in price, it was suggested that "next year's sponsorship rate will be one *million* dollars". Around 10 to 15 more artists were showing in the art auction, raising the number of pieces from 561 to 693 - for the first time, they actually sold out of panels to display the art. Art revenues were even higher. The sum raised before the voice auction, $12095, was higher than last year's final total of $11584. After the auction, it had almost doubled to $22442.
As for Safe Haven . . . well, last year charity revenues were slightly over $3000. This year: $5570. In addition, many donated money in the con suite tip jar (I'd actually thought it was to help pay for the food), amounting to almost another thousand dollars. With the doubling agreed earlier, their total was $13048.91.
Linnaeus: "213 in the fursuit parade - more than Anthrocon had. Not that we're trying to establish any rivalry . . ."
Kage: "Well, at least our elevators didn't break down." (Anthrocon's elevators at the Adams Mark always used to break, but this year it was MFF's turn)
Linnaeus: "We're blaming you for that!"
As traditional, a short time was set aside for bringing up areas that could be improved, although many just wanted to thank the organizers. Aside from the games, there was one complaint - Callamity Cougar asked "I saw CSI - and I was wondering, I couldn't find that room anywhere . . ." Laughter ensued, and the convention was officially over.
It was time for mwalimu to drive back, so Jae and I paid our farewells and went in search of food. On the recommendation of my housemate, I led us to Portillo's, which was serving up the local delicacy - heavily-beefed and peppered sandwiches dripping with grease. It was a very satisfying meal, and quite reasonably priced, though probably terribly bad for me. As it happened, the Groats chose the same restaurant.
When we returned, things were winding down, but you wouldn't know it from all the fursuters wandering around. I got a nice picture of Unika and Kayto, and then decided to pay a visit to Sorien's Tea Party. There I watched several episodes of Robot Chicken, and a strange anime movie called The Cat Returns. Naturally, we were all disappointed when the girl decided to return to the human world rather than live as an anthropomorphic cat . . .
Apparently I missed out on a big furpile in the atrium - oh well! I got my share of plush fur a bit later. Instead, I headed over to the far hall, where several tables of games were in session, including poker, some variant of Dungeons and Dragons, and Fluxx, a card game dedicated to the accumulation of new and often wildly different rules (hence the name). Meanwhile, KT, Babs and friends were scribbling away at the art table, and various fursuiters dropped in now and again to spice up the night. Eventually I followed them out, to find a fur playing skip rope with a suiter's tail, and a generous distribution of plush toys from the evening's games. A few minutes later I got the chance to rest my head in a fursuiter's paws. It was surprisingly comfortable, though that fur isn't quite as comfortable as it looks (apparently this is the way of most fur) .
"I don't put down black, I write 'orange and black'." - a tiger fur's view on demographics, overheard in the corridor.
I whiled away the time walking the halls and showing ElectroPaw my collection of photos and movies from the con. By then, it was 4AM, and the maids were cleaning up the hallways, probably quite confused at the sight of us still moving around. My last memory of the night is wandering around the now-deserted headless lounge, its multitude of fans whirring to no good purpose. I left one running, just in case, and left for bed.
I had a good sleep - almost eight hours - and got out of the room shortly after 12. JaeSharp had to go earlier, but he left me a nice note. I met up again with ElectroPaw as I was checking out, and we wandered off to the mall to find a bite to eat - at A&W, as it turned out. Upon our return, we found that Monday's events had begun - although it appeared little more than a product preview session. What product? WizeTrade, the software solution "dedicated to taking the guesswork out of trading." The price? A mere $4,000. I guess they must have some buyers, since they're into version 7. If you want my advice (I have a lot of it) I'd suggest you pick some consistent experts, or index the market, and just leave it alone for the most part rather than making individual trades. The software the pros use costs significantly more than this, and gives a far more subtle analysis than "buy" or "don't buy".
The last remnants of furry fen were hanging out in the atrium, with only a few suspicious ear-hats and the occasional conbadge giving any hint of their affiliation. I was chatting with ElectroPaw to while away the hour or so before I had to take a cab to the airport, when I was approached by WanderingPaws, who was kind enough to offer me a ride to the airport along with his Canadian friend. Despite almost running into several vehicles that seemed determined to turn into our path, we made it to the airport in one piece. I had no problem getting through security, and the remainder of the flight was uneventful.
 Personal reflections
I was very satisfied with this year's FurFest. The convention handled a 35% increase in attendance with apparent ease. There were a few problems due to pressure in terms of convention space, but this wasn't anywhere near as bad as it could have been since the convention made use of several hotel rooms in addition to the convention halls. The hotel itself remains well organized - it's possible to get from any one place to another in five minutes (and usually less), and the main corridors are wide enough to literally allow piles of furries to sit on both sides while still providing enough space for movement.
Over the last few years, MFF has broken straight out of "regional convention" status into "international convention" status. I rode in from the airport with from the Netherlands, and rode out with one going to Canada. British accents were relatively common, and there were many from the southern US states as well. It remains firmly in third place to Anthrocon and Further Confusion in terms of attendance (and I don't expect that order to change anytime soon), but that should not deter anyone from attending, whether it be from Chicagoland or halfway around the world. MFF is a great convention, and you will have a lot of fun - perhaps more-so because you won't have to do quite so much walking to get everywhere. Pre-registration is just $30 if you do it now, and you're sure to be able to find someone to room with to cut hotel costs as long as you arrange it in advance. If you just can't wait until next November, book anyway, then try one of the upcoming events as well. You'll not be sorry.