Con Case Study: Rainfurrest 2015

Back in February, social media drew attention to the hotel damage that occurred during Katsucon 2016. While it remains to be seen how the vandalism will affect future Katsucon events, there does exist a good case study of how hotel vandalism and other convention issues can affect a con’s ability to hold its event consistently.

RainFurrest, a Seattle furry convention, held its last event in September of 2015. Shortly after the con’s conclusion, the convention’s chair posted an open letter to RainFurrest’s attendees, detailing a number of incidents that happened at the convention.

Not mentioned in the letter, but mentioned in a later breakdown by one of the con’s staffers are that at least two assaults took place, and that the attendees sent to the hospital were sent there due to drug-related issues.

The con chair made it clear in his letter that, while their venue understood conventions and had been pleasant to work with for years, the hotel was not happy with them and that the future of the convention was at serious risk.

Although the letter mentioned that the contract for the 2016 event had already been signed, the convention was forced to secure a new venue, which ultimately they were unable to do, killing RainFurrest 2016.

The following February, the saga leading to RainFurrest’s demise is laid out in detail by the convention’s head of programming. They explain that since 2011, the post-con damage reports from the hotel had been significantly higher than other similar events of similar size, and rising, but because they were never considered the convention’s responsibility, nor was their event insurance ever billed for the damages, the con staff never did anything about them.

In addition, internal strife within the convention staff hamstrung their ability to control their congoers. The head of security refused to kick people out for bad behaviour, giving the convention a reputation of being lenient and unwilling to uphold basic standards of behaviour. Because there were no consequences for breaking the rules, RainFurrest became “a ‘safe’ space to violate the rules.”

Put simply, the incidents at RainFurrest 2015 that ultimately killed RainFurrest 2016 were already set into motion by 2011, and the convention itself made little effort to stop things from escalating. Things got far out of hand and at that point, even their pleasant, understanding venue was fed up with having to clean up after badly-behaved furs.

Again, it’s important to understand that these cases of con vandalism are a work of a few bad apples. Indeed, RainFurrest only pulled a total of five badges as their 2015 event. However, this is an example of “a few bad apples” actually spoiling the bunch and ruining things for other people. Some blame lies with the convention staff for refusing to deal with problem attendees, but at the end of the day, had people not decided to stuff towels into hot tub machinery or sabotage toilets, none of this would be an issue.

As a case study, RainFurrest is a prime example of how venue vandalism can ruin a convention, but to be useful to the discussion surround Katsucon (And other anime cons, for that matter), it’s important to understand the differences between the two conventions.

Furry conventions are much smaller than anime conventions. Indeed, Anthrocon, the largest furry convention, is still an order of magnitude smaller by attendance than the tenth largest anime con in North America (For reference, RainFurrest 2015 is the 6th largest furry con to date). The misbehaviour of a few furs is magnified by the smaller size of the con and, in addition, the venue makes less from a cost-benefit standpoint. Put simply, the larger concentration of people going to an anime convention might better offset whatever damage might come to the venue. Until the damage becomes statistically significant, to where the venue is uncomfortable losing that much money on insurance and repairs, things are likely to proceed relatively normally, with a badge price increase here and an artist alley table price increase there.

As a result, it comes down to attendees to police ourselves. We’re the first line of defense. If you see something, say something. Don’t let things escalate to the point of your convention being shut down. Con staff has the power to kick people out, but only if they know people are doing things to get kicked out, and as evidenced with RainFurrest, sometimes they won’t even act at that point.

Much like the vandalism at anime conventions doesn’t represent the whole of the anime community, the vandalism at RainFurrest doesn’t represent the whole of the furry community. Nonetheless, a relative few malcontents do have the power to ruin everyone else’s fun, and so it’s important that their behaviour not be allowed to escalate.