After eight years of grabbing the attention of Pittsburgh, it was time for the "furries" of Anthrocon to make Guinness World Records take notice.
A turnout of 1,162 people dressed head-to-toe in animal costumes walked, danced and cartwheeled Saturday through the halls of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to set a record for the world's largest parade of people in fur suits.
Although there is currently no official record set for fur suit parades, Anthrocon was successfully surpassed its 2012 record of 1,045 paraders. Now, if all goes to plan, the furries will be officially recognized by Guinness.
"This is the biggest furry gathering in the word," said Paul Thompson, a doctoral student from Kentucky. "There's no way we didn't get the record."
Anthrocon is a convention for people interested in anthropomorphism, the practice of making non-human creatures, especially animals, seem human-like. Although the furries are best known for their full-on costumes, fur suits are only a part of their culture.
Most dedicated furries have a specific character, complete with a backstory and personality, that they choose to identify with. Their costumes are rarely basic animals; there are rabbits in leather motorcycle suits, tigers dressed like samurai and foxes who belly-dance, to name a few. The characters can be played out through drawing, computer games, virtual worlds on the Internet, costumes or simple imagination.
"It's identifying yourself as who you really feel you are," Kaitlynn Jordan, 15, of Freedom said.
Kaitlynn, who was dressed as a polar bear, attended Anthrocon with her mother, Shelia Jordan, who donned a zebra costume for the day. After telling Kaitlynn that they were going to a soup kitchen for the day, Ms. Jordan surprised her daughter by taking her to the costume store and then the convention.
It was a sign of support for Kaitlynn's interest in the furry world, which started when she was 8 years old. Her "true character" is a blue cat named Kiachi, but she does not yet own a cat fur suit.
"When I was younger, I was bullied a lot and I needed a way to be myself without being harassed for it," Kaitlynn said. "So instead of being myself online as a faceless person, I created my character. Now I don't have to be scared to be myself."
Stories like Kaitlynn's are common among furries, but Anthrocon executive director Samuel Conway said the interest in human-like animals is different for everyone.
"The idea of animals that walk and talk, this isn't something new," Mr. Conway said. "We didn't invent it, we just happen to like it."
By "we," Mr. Conway doesn't just mean Anthrocon's nearly 5,500 attendees. Furries are truly an international phenomenon. In 2012, there were more than 40 furry conventions on six continents, with names like Furtastic (Denmark), Camp Wildpaw (Australia) and FuRio (Brazil).
But no city receives the economic impact of the furries quite like Pittsburgh. This year alone, Anthrocon's guests are expected to generate $6.2 million in direct spending. More than $758,000 was spent on hotels alone, according to VisitPittsburgh. Anthrocon will also be making a donation to Equine Angels Rescue in Cabot.
And soon, the convention may give Pittsburgh the claim to fame as official home of the world's largest fur suit parade.
Jessica Contrera: email@example.com, 412-263-1458 or on Twitter @mjcontrera. First Published July 7, 2013 12:15 AM