On Saturday, February 10, furries from across the Pacific Northwest converged at Lakeshore Lanes in Albany for their Valentine’s Day Meetup. The PNW Furs hold monthly events at the bowling alley, and have done so since August of last year.
For those unfamiliar with furry fandom, it’s a subculture of fun-loving non-conformists, many of which wear elaborate animal costumes called “fursuits.” The culture revolves around anthropomorphic animal art, media, and other material that portrays animals with human characteristics. Unlike other fandoms, furries create personalized characters, rather than emulating existing comic book or movie characters – like you’d see at Comic-Con or other cosplay venues.
Every furry flaunts their individuality by picking an animal that they feel akin to, sometimes a hybrid animal of their own creation, and often, small details in their fursuit represent different aspects of their personalities. These suits cost upwards of $1,000. So to go full furry is quite the financial commitment.
Lakeshore Lanes, usually a bastion of the status quo and Carhartt jackets, was transformed into something more alive and unpredictable last Saturday in the presence of the PNW Furs. The confusion on the faces of other bowlers eventually led to intrigue, as many approached the group to take selfies, and the building buzzed with talk of the gathering.
A young woman from Lebanon named Brigitte is responsible for bringing this group together. She sought out her fellow furries from various small internet groups throughout Oregon and Washington, and as a result, people travel from as far as Seattle to attend these Albany Meetups.
Among the group roamed a pink cow, a blue fox-looking character (whom I was lead to understand is something called a sergal), and a dog with a skull-face. I was also approached by a husky wearing rock climbing gear that seemed to want a little pat on the head, and so I obliged. He seemed appreciative.
Furries & Stigma What draws someone to furry fandom varies from any one person to the next, despite urban myth and lazy comedy writing that depicts furry culture as ridden with deranged sex weirdies or animal fetishism and mental deficiency.
In a Q&A published by Psychology Today, Dr. Courtney Plante, lead analyst of the International Anthropomorphic Research Project, explains that, comparatively, data reveals that furries are no more attracted to animals, nor less well-adjusted, than the general public.
According to some attendees at the Albany Meetup, some furry fans were drawn to the culture through a longing to belong. Some have disabilities, while others are socially awkward or have felt generally disconnected with other people.
Regardless of the negativity sometimes hoisted upon them, the furries continue to be true to themselves. The community is a place for any fan to experience acceptance, while harnessing their creativity. The added perk is that it could be a life-changer for those feeling out of place in society.
Thanks to them, I’ve finally realized my dream of seeing a person with a dragon head and a galaxy-print dress feverishly dance to “You’re Welcome” from the Disney film, Moana.
“It’s about getting together, and you don’t feel like you’re alone,” said Brigitte.
Brigitte explained seeing young people with minimal social skills join the group, and eventually opening up to other members, and becoming more confident.
As for Lakeshore Lanes, they’re nothing but delighted to host this pack of strays.
“They’re always so much fun, and they never give me any problems,” said Assistant Manager Angie Lopez.
March Meetup The next PNW Furs Meetup is destined for Saturday, March 3, from 6 p.m. to late night at Lakeshore Lanes, and will have a St Patty’s Day theme. While fursuits are not required, attendees are encouraged to wear green. Admission is $25, covers food, non-alcoholic beverages, and bowling, and can be paid with by cash or paypal. Alcohol will be available with separate purchase.
There will be a variety of exciting events, including a St Patty’s Day t-shirt contest and a baking contest, where staff will vote on tees and goodies participants have the option of wearing or bringing. Party supplies, such as candy, prizes, and games are welcome too, though not required. There will also be a doodle badge art workshop, raffle prizes, and discounted soaps, bath salts, fursuit sprays, and grab bags provided by Aneliu Works.
Other small businesses and artists are encouraged to donate prizes, and those who donate every meet will be listed as a sponsor of future PNW Furs events. Prize examples include, but aren’t limited to, coupons, gift certificates, art, fursuit parts, accessories, gift cards, candy, and plushies.
Participants are also encouraged to show up on time, at 6 p.m.