I recently returned from Chicago and my first ever attendance of Midwest Furfest. The Windy City treated me and my companions well with easy transportation and mostly favorable weather throughout our visit! Midwest Furfest, which is held in nearby Rosemont, is another “furry” convention similar to Anthrocon with artists, performers, costumers, and other creative attendees. Since I’d never been to a convention just for fun before, I decided not to sell at this con and simply spend time with artist friends who were doing the same, though I did do some research by putting myself in the customers’ shoes in the Artist’s Alley and Dealer’s Den. The break came at a great time for me, as I’ve been hard at work preparing for an upcoming local show. I’d really like to do this convention again if I get the opportunity and work the Alley or Den.
As is standard with these conventions, I and many other attendees are known by friends and fans under nicknames or chosen titles other than our birth names. I will note others’ names as I know them or feel is most appropriate and do my best to clarify anything that may be confusing.
Wednesday, November 20th
I flew out of Philadelphia in the morning and touched down in Chicago in the early afternoon. I met up with my roommates, Rondie and her brother Roffie, in the baggage claim. We caught the shuttle to our hotel – the Aloft, an overflow for the convention – and got settled in. After exchanging some art and taking pictures, we had an early dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant.
Rondie’s friend Dafydd with a card I made.
The Hyatt Regency, which was the convention hotel, was quiet when we went over. Most people had not yet arrived. I was stunned by its size and by the facilities available inside. Their check-in was on the second floor between a full bar and a restaurant. Only a few costumers and attendees were present, so after a little looking around, we went back to the Aloft and made plans for the next day.
Thursday, November 21st
Rondie, Roffie, and I took a few trains into downtown Chicago to explore. We took some pictures at Wabash and Lake – I’m told it’s a Matrix reference – then walked down to Millenium Park. It was a pleasant, well-kept park with a good view of the city and lots of trees. We took pictures around and under Cloud Gate, the mirror bean sculpture, and we considered going skating on the outdoor rink.
After a very long walk, we made it to Adler Planetarium and got to see the Gemini XII capsule, lots of old telescopes, and a couple displays on the Big Bang. Later, a short bus ride down the street let us off at the Field Museum of Natural History. Rondie was most interested in Sue, the most complete T-Rex fossil, while I was really happy to see and photograph some exhibits on bugs. I even got a “Moths of the World” poster in the gift shop.
Luna and other moths on display at the Field Museum.
One of many more insect displays at the Field Museum.
After returning from town, we all went to the Hyatt again. We went through registration, had dinner at the hotel restaurant, and wound up at the bar. I had something to drink and caught up with a few friends before catching the shuttle back to the Aloft for some sleep.
Friday, November 22nd
Once I arrived at the Hyatt for the day, I found some friends I’d missed the night before, and we went to Opening Ceremonies. After the lines died down a little, I visited the Artist’s Alley and Dealer’s Den, making several rounds in each. I looked at each table and paid attention to what did or didn’t catch my eye and why. Eventually, I picked an artist to do the first commissioned sketch of my new character, Moth Monarch; I also bought a small box decorated with pyrography.
Artwork of Moth Monarch by Tooiebird.
I attended Rondie and Roffie’s pony panel to support them and learn about real horses. Telephone, one of the cutest costumed performers in the entire fandom, showed up before they got started, and a horse fursuiter popped in just in time for the part of the panel discussing horse safety. I left just a few minutes early to make it to Kage’s Story Hour to hear the usual true-if-exaggerated tales and to live draw some of the things Kage was saying as if his character, a cockroach, were saying or experiencing them. I had a great time and stayed for 2 Gryphon’s comedy show afterward, which was abrasive with funny moments as it tends to be. Before leaving, I gave Kage the sheet of drawings, so sadly I have no pictures of it. He might scan it and send me a copy eventually.
A couple friends and I had a very late pizza dinner, talked for a while, and then went our ways. Rondie and I had to walk back to the Aloft in the cold because the shuttle stopped running well before we were ready to go.
Saturday, November 23rd
Rondie figured out how to get to the Hyatt from the Aloft via skybridge, so we walked over mostly indoors and warm. We went down to the art show to admire the art and see whether Rondie’s pieces had received any bids. I voted for my favorite piece in the show, then headed over to Artist’s Alley to pick up my sketch from Tooiebird. Rondie joined me in the Dealer’s Den, where we bought felted bunnies and I purchased a blank sketchbook for art trades. In the hallway, we ran into Damaris, who I know from past Anthrocons.
Rondie and I had lunch in the con suite (a hangout area, like Anthrocon’s Zoo). The tables were covered with paper for drawing on, so I doodled a bunch of bugs! Rondie drew Rainbow Dash as a realistic horse next to me. We met up with Damaris again a little later, and all three of us went to hang out in the Red Bar before it opened. We talked while Rondie and I did an art trade. I drew bugs in her sketchbook; she made something fantastic out of the cover of mine.
Rondie and I drawing at Red Bar. Photo by Damaris.
Sketchbook made by Tooiebird; hand-drawn cover by Rondie.
I then spent some time with other friends talking, singing, and drawing other things. I tried sarsaparilla. We ate at Red Bar and went to the charity show, which was incredibly funny and ridiculous. Again, I drew some of the shenanigans and presented the drawings after the show. Everything was fantastic.
Sunday, November 24th
During breakfast in the con suite, I met up with a couple repeat customers of my charms just to chat. I popped down to the Dealer’s Den and Alley once more for another look and to get a few last things. After more bouncing around, I went to Rondie’s Flash Fiction reading, though I didn’t read anything of my own in the end. At the end of the panel, Rondie read a fun little story called Death and the Cat.
We returned to the con suite for lunch, and I drew on the table again. After eating, we caught the last few performances in the dance competition. Rondie went to the fursuit games; I spent time with other friends until Closing Ceremonies.
Some of my paper tablecloth art.
The rest of the night was filled with odd and funny things. Some friends and I had pizza with 2. He popped my thumb joint to demonstrate it was possible. I got back to the friends’ room and an air mattress nearly fell on me. We played Cards Against Humanity and were temporarily awful people. A chair died suddenly and unexpectedly while being sat on.
It was time to say goodnight all too soon. The hardest part of any con is always leaving the last gathering and knowing you won’t see your friends again for months or even years. I walked back to the Aloft alone.
Monday, November 25th
I ate the leftover pizza for breakfast. Rondie, Roffie, and I packed up, checked out, and waited in the lobby until it was time to go to the airport. We parted ways in the shuttle. Several hours later, I watched the sun set over the clouds in midair.
Fursuiters dressed as pirates at the height of the convention.
With any luck, I’ll be back in Chicago next year to see more of the city and spend another weekend with the animal people in my life. I’ve enough good memories and encouragement to fuel me and inspire me until we meet again.
All photos © 2013 Mary T. Capaldi unless otherwise noted.