Our first interaction was in the dealers den, where I bought the fantastic book 'If You Give A Bunny A Beer'. This looked quite hilarious judging by its cover but it soon descended into a harsh pscyhological analysis of alcohol abuse, which suddenly became rather less funny. This did provide a good talking point in the den though and as well as this, I also bought a plastic con badge in the shape of a pink husky for $5, which I thought was pretty neat. The den was quite modest in size but I was surprised by the variety of different things on offer, and of course everyone was super friendly. This extended to the bar area too, where there was always someone to talk to and where there was a range of good quality local craft beers on tap. This made us feel quite at home and became a good place to hook up with people on my Twitter and Telegram feeds I wanted to meet. Indeed, if I saw anyone tweet about their presence at Furlandia, I jumped into the conversation suggesting a meet-up, feeling that they would have followed me rather than the other way around and it was par for the coure with social networking and interaction. This strategy worked rather well and we did get to meet a cool group of people.
One of the highlights of the con was on the Saturday morning after we had eaten the remnants of the previous day's breakfast from Carol's Corner Cafe. At around 10am, we were told there was a bright pink van waiting outside selling doughnuts from the highly acclaimed local emporium Voodoo Doughnuts (note the correct spelling of doughnuts). Apparently, 'the magic is in the hole', which is odd as many of our doughnuts didn't have holes, but they were very tasty indeed, even if they were incredibly bad for you. We got six, which came in a box that can only be described as a beautiful work of art (with the slogan 'Good Things Come In Pink Boxes'), although admittedly we only ended up eating four throughout the course of the next 48 hours. This was partly because the temperatures were hitting 32C and fatty doughnuts were the last thing I fancied in such weather, but also because we were doing so many other things. Some of them were rather sickly and I am not sure why we got them, except to sample some of the more extreme and decadant food that the United States produces. On reflection, the Capn' Crunch was particularly unappealing.
The Fursuit Walk was on the Saturday at around 4pm, which was my first opportunity to get into suit. Indeed, it was to be my one of only two suiting experiences at Furlandia, largely due to being busy with other things. This is always the way for me at cons and I do wonder why I bring the suit at times, although I would probably regret it if I didn't. The procession itself was the usual affair of around the hotel, through the lobby and outside, although the walk was curtailed somewhat due to the oppressive heat. Before the walk, we had waited patiently for our photograph to be taken in the main stage area, which seemed to take forever in the baking heat. The one surprising thing was the sheer number of photographers wanting to take pictures of the suits, while it was fantastic that a number of people commented on how much they liked mine and that they recognized me from it.
One interesting thing about this con compared to others to which I have been was the not insignificant number of minors in attendance. Children are allowed provided they are accompanied by their parents, and there were a number of kids as young as 11 walking around the convention area. Some had spectacular fursuits and in the Fursuit Lounge on the Sunday I got talking to the mother of one of the children, who told me that she had made the fursuit herself even though she was only 14. I was stunned by such talent at such a young age, but this was something that was actively encouraged by her parents. I do feel that schools in the US put more emphasis on the arts and creativity than they do in the UK - this was certainly my experience when I went to school there - and it was fantastic to hear that parents thought that the furry world is a good place to harness a child's imagination. I countered that it was also a great place to meet people from all over the world and learn about important things such as tolerance, something which was found to be agreeable. It was quite refreshing hearing the fandom being looked at so positively, as opposed to the UK where many furs seem to be slightly ashamed of it.
I didn't go to that many panels in the end - once you've done 22 cons, you have kinda done them all - but on the Sunday afternoon I did attend the dance competition because I had befriended two other fursuiters and they dragged me there. Indeed, this happened just before I had met the parent, and I must admit the quality of the moves were far greater than anything I could do. The comments from the judges were all overwhelmingly positive, which was nice to see, while the music and lighting complemented the event well. Indeed, in the darkness of the main stage area, it was hard to accept that it was so bright and sunny outside, it being around three o'clock in the afternoon. This was the only panel I did though, partly because there weren't too many but partly because there was little of interest. The dances in particular were quite poor as again it was the same type of generic dance/hardcore/trance music which is played at all cons. Oh a little diversity wouldn't go amiss.
The con started to wind down on the Sunday evening, so we had arranged to meet up with Tuxedo and Tarka at Fogo de Chão in downtown Portland for around 7pm. Fogo de Chão is an all you can eat Brazilian meat restaurant not dissimilar to Fazenda in Leeds. It was exquisite, with exceptional salad (the kale and orange was divine) and something like eleven different types of meat (including lamb, beef, chicken and sausages). With tasty home-baked bread too, the meal was a delight, as was the company. We had last met Tuxedo and Tarka back at Rainfurrest in 2012 so it was great to meet up with them again and properly catch up away from the bedlam of the con. Of course, we were going to spend a good few weeks with Tux but, even though Tarka was also going to be at BLFC, it was great to catch up with him too. His 'I'm an otter story' when crossing the Canadian/US border one time is possibly my favourite ever furry story, largely due to its delivery. Tarka always seemed to be everywhere at both cons, so bumping into him was incredibly easy, while we even had a small room party with Taneli and myself where we drank about six bottles of wine that he had bought from a local supermarket. It was a very pleasant evening, lasting from about 7:30pm to 10:30pm, as was the trip to the Brazilian restaurant.
We had actually headed into town slightly earlier at around 5pm as we had planned to meet up with another Twitter friend of mine, Noxyburd. He wasn't at the con due to work reasons but he and his boyfriend met up in the McMenamins bar on SW 10th for an hour ahead of our meal. This place was done out in the style of an English pub, but it wasn't quite all there, although the beers we sampled as part of the taster tray were just as good as any of the ones we had tried on the Friday. They were perhaps more ale-like in style, a theme which continued in a number of their venues which we visited both in Portland and Bend throughout our stay in Oregon, but definitely worth purchasing. Wolfie's foot was really giving him trouble by this stage so the walk uphill to the bar was somewhat slow, but when we got there, we had a delightful hour with the duo before we had to head off and meet Tux and Tarka in the Brazilian place. The only other point of interest here was we got chatting to a couple of college students on the Max Line from the Airport to Downtown, who told us all about Portland and how fantastic the city is. I countered by telling them about my hometown and how we had a similar bridge to the one we went over to get to downtown. I probably bored them to tears.
After the meal, Tux drove us back to the Sheraton, where things were already winding down. As we got back, we saw staff dismantling the stage and filling up huge lorries full of equipment while the corridors had already been stripped of their furry paraphinalia and were looking rather bare in shades of brown. This was particularly striking in the morning and the shells of a couple of rooms which were currently undergoing renovation (they seem to be upgrading the rooms three or four at a time) only added to the desolate feel of a departing con. On the Monday morning though I did get to have a nice chat with a furry couple in a lift as I went to the small shop to pick up my breakfast bagel and cream cheese (something of which we had availed ourselves on the Sunday morning too). They were telling me that they lived in a podunk town three hours away but were moving house later that day, albeit just down the road. The talk ended up lasting half an hour, with me clinging on to the good times, although I knew in my heart we needed to go as we had a long drive ahead of us.
Furlandia then was a fantastic experience, a con of 800 furs which felt a lot smaller. Whether it was because of a lot of day tickets (I think there were 500 weekend passes sold) or because the local nature of the event meant many people just commuted to and from it I'm not so sure. It was an intimate con though, and one that was incredibly friendly, although there was a lack of room parties and events later in the evening. This didn't stop us drinking in the bar until the early hours (well Taneli and I did, Wolfie was holed up in the room with his foot issue), but it wasn't a full-on con experience. It was still pleasant though and we made many good friends, plus Portland is definitely a city we need to visit again. There is every chance we may be back.