“We’re all mad here…”
This year at Texas Furry Fiesta, 3866 fuzzbutts fell asleep and found themselves in Wonderland! This number bumped up the convention to being on the top 5 conventions list, falling just under Furry Weekend Atlanta (FWA).
This was my 2nd time going to TFF and it has always held a special place in my heart for being my first-ever con. This year was an adventure as the convention had grown so much that it was in a new venue for a brand-new experience! Because it was so fresh and so new, I decided that a type of review was in order. So, taking from my personal experiences and the comments from others, I compiled a list of things that set the convention apart, and maybe the not-so favorable things about the convention that can hopefully be fixed in the future.
So buckle up and take this trip down the rabbit-hole with me as we explore the brand-new Texas Furry Fiesta (Lonestar Wonderland)!
(Right-Left): Radar & Owen
- Growing Numbers!
—I have made a habit of reading through the con-books because they always offer the most interesting information. As someone that is still new to TFF, I could not believe how small they started in comparison to other conventions. In ten years their numbers have grown so drastically when their first con only had 542 people in attendance! Crazy, right? Now here we are in 2018 and we almost broke 4,000 people…it really just blows me away!
But a growing number means a demand for a larger space…and this year the convention took place at the Hyatt Regency, right next to the Reunion Tower in Dallas Texas. Already I noticed an improvement from last-year’s space (which I will go into detail about down below)- and it made for a much more comfortable con-experience than the previous year.Because of the larger space, I found that I had more time to actually notice what was around me. I saw a lot of familiar faces and the ‘Texas regulars’, but I also saw a lot of new faces as well. New suiters and a lot of people new to the con-scene. I saw even younger fursuiters than I witnessed last year and at ACFI and just the amount of people really shows how the fandom continues to grow, to evolve, and to include more-and-more people of varied ages, backgrounds, etc. It’s exciting. Every convention is like witnessing another moment in Furry history…and I always find myself getting excited and just feeling so humbled and honored at the thought that I get to be part of it all.
- Hyatt Regency!
—The Hyatt Regency is a gorgeous hotel placed right next to the Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas. It has 28 floors, multiple rooms to rent for panel spaces (spanning across 3 floors from ground-level)- a pool, a hot tub, a bar, and even a gift shop. It conveniently attaches to the DART Train for easy travel between points, and I heard it was close to some of the most interesting neighborhoods/communities in Dallas.The layout of the hotel had mixed reviews…but I must admit that I had no trouble finding my way around. The pocket-booklet that everyone was given at registration gave an incentive to travel around the convention and locate all the most popular spots. Think of it like an interactive-tour or some sort of scavenger hunt for stamps. Upon filling your pocket-booklet with stamps from the various locations, you were given a special TFF pin at the help desk. My only complaint was that more people did not know what this part of the booklet was for, let alone that there was a prize. I found myself telling many people about it when they were wandering around lost… but again, the layout was not that bad. I feel like after wandering around for one night, I had most of the locations memorized. I did not have to refer to the map very often and only got lost one time the entire 3 days that I was there. The hotel also had various maps scattered across their walls so that people could use it for reference if they did not have their paper map (again, located in the pocket booklet).
Most panels seemed to take place on the 2nd floor and past the bar. There were multiple small rooms down a hallway located right next to a set of elevators. If anything, I could see where such a small hallway could be missed or overlooked- but at least people could go straight from the panels to their rooms. All the bigger events like the raves, concerts, and the dance competition all took place on the first floor where they could set up the stages. The Dealer’s Den was also located on the first floor.
The lobby area contained the Artist Alley as well as the Art show…and while not as convenient as other locations, at least they had a sizable space. As a fursuiter though, I will say that having the Headless Lounge in the lobby could be kind of a chore. Going up-and-down escalators when tired and/or hot…then mixing that with low-visibility seemed more like a hazard…but at least on Sunday it was moved to the 1st floor where it was more accessible. The Hyatt also had a massive outdoor area for smokers and a place where people could just cool off if they really needed to. This space was located on the first floor and conveniently placed next to the front desk.
Last year’s TFF seemed ‘cramped’ at best, with a lot of people shoving past each other and people being shoulder-to-shoulder. So, the relocation to the Hyatt really was a breath of fresh air. I found myself able to see more of the convention since I was not constantly bumping past other people, and it was a lot more comfortable walking from space-to-space. Even activities and panels were more roomy and there was barely anyone left with places not to sit. Compared to last year where people were listening to their panels out in the hallways for lack of room, this really was a treat.
As for the location of the hotel, I was not a fan. That seemed to be one of the more major complaints. While the hotel did connect directly to the DART Train, for those that were driving, getting to the hotel could be confusing. Also, there was a lack of stores and other such places around the hotel which some people heavily rely on when they travel. UberEats and other delivery services were a near necessity because the Hyatt almost seemed isolated compared to other hotels. It was also a more ‘expensive’ space…but I found that the comfort of having enough room to walk and play in suit made it worth it.
Parking for the convention was not fun and was another major complaint that I will go into detail about down below-but overall, it is something that I believe can be fixed for later cons. If I could change anything about the hotel rooms it would only be that they add in a microwave and maybe a bigger refrigerator. Overall I would say the move to the Hyatt was a smart one, and overall it was a raging success!
—After the first night, the convention was being referred to as “Elevator Hell” and “Elevator Con” because with 3800 people all running around the convention, the elevators quickly became backed up. People were trying to pile in the elevators in dangerous numbers just to get up to their rooms. I was on the 11th floor, and though my wife was fit enough to take the stairs…I was not (especially while in fursuit). Unfortunately, the inability to get up the stairs applied to several furries, and hostilities quickly grew with people trying to determine who and what had priority when it came to traveling in the elevators.
Volunteers and con-staff did eventually step in and create a line system for the elevators, but this was only taking place on the floors with panel spaces (1st and 2nd floors respectively)- this grouping helped people get up to their rooms but it did nothing for the people trying to get down. I say the worst of it was on Saturday because my friends and I could not get down from our room for the longest time, and it nearly resulted in our missing the fursuit parade.
From what I heard, a lot of it boiled down to the hotel not understanding just how insane this convention was going to be. Their lack of knowledge on the fandom and how it operates made for a lot of confusion in more than just the elevators. We occupied most of the hotel for that weekend, and naturally they had other guests as well that did not know what to do when it came to furries. They did not have enough staff to have people monitoring every elevator segment on every floor, and this is understandable. Like parking and other things…I think this just means that next year there can be room for some major improvement. Also, considering this was our first year at the Hyatt, my thoughts are that it can only get better from here.
But people really should be more considerate when it comes to elevators. If they are already packed and your room is not too far away- if you are able to, please take the stairs! Also, have courtesy for those with luggage or for those wearing fursuits. Please let them in the elevator before you because chances are they are in the bigger hurry and have the most need to get somewhere.
(Left-Right): Escap’e, Unknown, Rune
- Parking Problems:
—Like the location of the hotel, the parking was really confusing. There were 3 parking lots where one could park for the convention, but there was not many indicators of which parking lot you were in when parking! The radish-lot was the main hotel parking which quickly filled up. It was the one located closest to the front of the hotel.
There was also the Reunion Tower parking which was the larger of the parking lots. It was the 2nd closest parking lot being right behind the main entrance to the hotel. Lastly, there were parking lots located far down the street called lots B-through-E where there were a lot of parking spaces available…but the location was so far and so isolated from the hotel that most people did not know those spaces even existed. While a lot of people got the con-rate parking for $5…there were those of us (like myself) that parked in the Reunion Tower parking (thinking it was the hotel parking) only to leave the convention with a $57 parking bill to pay. I do agree with others that while the Hyatt’s website had a list of parking rates…it was very unclear which lots were what and what prices people would actually be paying. So, this convention was not so kind for those of us actually staying at the hotel even though staying at the Hyatt was meant to be more convenient.
So the costs were not nice for those that could not get the con-rate, and the locations were not the best with people bringing in a lot of luggage. I found that the location of the parking was not kind to fursuiters nor was it kind to those with disabilities as the back of the hotel lacked ramps of any kind even though most of the parking was in the back of the hotel, and the doors lead directly into the lobby space.
There were those that said that using the DART Train was the best way to get around if traveling around Dallas, and while we did have experience with Uber, getting them to find your location at the hotel was not very successful unless you were willing to meet the Uber at the front doors. There were those that rented bicycles to get around but for most of us it was just too cold.
At least for next year I have learned what I can do better to cut down on costs. Getting con-rates for parking is a MUST, and getting to the con 2 days before the con is probably the way to go. My first night in Dallas (Thursday)- the parking lots were already full. We spent so much time circling the hotel to find a lot that was open and that had space that we missed pre-registration by 14-minutes. So, even though we were at the convention, we could not take part in any of the early events. But, we don’t blame the hotel or the convention, and we can only do better and plan better for next year!
- The overall cost increase:
—I will say that expenses have increased since TFF last year. Even with con rates and such, a lot of people ended up spending a lot more money than they intended. The Hyatt did not provide any form of free breakfast but I found that their massive servings could work if people were splitting meals. I shared steak and eggs with my wife which cost us $18, but we easily split it and still felt full. The only downside was the coffee costing so much…the drinks were not cheap so it made up most of the bill.
Bars at a hotel are never on the cheap side, so it’s often recommended that you bring your own booze. I did like the bar’s selection but found that they added a lot more alcohol than most places, and I was not sure on the quality versus the cost. There was also a $50 holding fee for those that opened a tab…and that hurt a lot of people’s bank accounts (in which I hope they got everything sorted out).
Like mentioned before, the parking was rather costly for those that were not able to get the con-rate. For those needing to use Uber or take the Dart Train…by far the train was cheaper, with Ubers ranging anywhere from $25-$65 depending on the type of vehicle you might need. Lyft was a more expensive option, and cabs are even more expensive than that. Again, there were bikes to rent, and while cheap, the weather was really cold…so riding a bike on slick sidewalks was not at all advised.
Food ended up being the biggest cost for those going to the con. While there were microwaves downstairs, they were few in number. The shops in the hotel were overpriced with small drinks costing $3 or more. Even vending machines were $2 and did not take cards which meant a trip to an ATM and paying the ATM fee if you do not carry cash. Pizza delivery and other delivery services were available- as well as services like UberEats.
The Hyatt was not cheap. A room for 4-nights and multiple beds spiraled past $700 easily. Take that into account with registration costs of $50 and then parking, food, and spending money for souvenirs, and there were people easily going past 2k for the trip. So it was much more costly than last year and that was a problem for a lot of people. But, like with all Furry Conventions, these cons are a luxury and something you need to save and budget heavily for. My wife and I made sure we brought our own food to eat (for the most part) and next year we will bring a lot more variety as well as snacks to cut on spending.
(Left-Right): Rune & Elana
- Scheduling & Panels:
—I personally thought that panels this year were a lot more varied than cons-past. I found that there were more panels and more things that I was interested in personally. I also liked that they seemed to have more ‘adult’ panels than last year. But, there was a good blend of new things and familiar favorites like the McGuiver Fursuit Challenge and the Fursuit Games. I did not hear many complaints about scheduling, and everything that I attended always started on time.
There might have been some confusion for the panels that got swapped on Sunday (to new locations), but I was not affected by this personally. As far as I know, only some game rooms had issues with what times they needed the rooms versus what times the hotel let them stay in said-rooms. Also, there was a bit of a flub when it came to the closing ceremonies not reserving the room they wanted to be in…but all-in-all, everything was very organized and went very smoothly.
I found that there really was something for everyone, and my problem this year was trying to get to everything while balancing my shopping and my suiting! By far my favorite events was the Rocky Horror Picture show performance, the Dance Competition, and learning how to brew beer. I also really liked the video game room (even though I did not play anything)- I liked how much space they had this year and variety, and my friends spent a lot of time in the tabletop gaming room which they enjoyed very much!
- Food Trucks!
—A solid improvement to the convention were the food trucks. It was something that TFF had in the past but that was not available for last year’s con. They were in high demand and this year we got some down the road from the Hyatt. They had a limited window, but they offered a nice alternative to eating at the hotel restaurant or having to order another pizza. My wife bought a cuban sandwich for $10 that easily fed the both of us and it was delicious!
Some people complained about the weather and the lines, but those were minor things. For the time they were there, I found them to be really convenient and very cost-effective for those on a budget!
[Fursuiters unknown- if you know them please tell me so I can credit them properly!]
- The Fursuit Parade!
—I loved the fursuit parade this year! Like the rest of the convention last year…the parade last year at TFF was stuffy and cramped. There was not much space between the suiters and the crowd and overall it was hot and mostly uncomfortable. But this year was such a breath of fresh air!
Not only was there enough space to where 2 suiters could easily walk side-by-side with each other, but there was space between the fursuiters and the crowd! They also placed a tape trail on the ground, marking the route for the parade, and it was super helpful! The route was short-and-sweet…but it was set up to where everyone got the chance to see all the suits in all their glory. I had no complaints about any of it, I really thought that the organization, the space, the lines, and the route were excellent. So my hat (or fursuit head) goes off to whoever set it all up because they did a fantastic job! Even the room where all the suits were waiting to leave was roomy and cool which was a real treat and made for a wonderful experience!
- Compliments to Con-staff!
—I did not hear a single complaint about the con staff this year. All the volunteers and the people involved were more than helpful, and with all the chaos that a new convention brings, I really feel like they went above and beyond to help people out. I utilized the help desk often and they always had an answer for my questions. Even when it came to “elevator hell” the staff stepped in and got everything under control as best as they could.
There were reports of people in suits having trouble with people touching them without permission, suits getting damaged, and other sorts of complaints in which they said the staff went above-and-beyond to help those suiters and make them feel safe in their suits again. I can not imagine the time and energy it takes in running the con, so again, I applaud the amazing staff and volunteers at TFF and everything they do so that we can have a fun and fuzzy weekend!
[Shewulf got photobombed! Please tell me who this awesome suiter is!]
A new venue space (much like a new convention) is bound to be chaotic. There are going to be flaws and be hiccups, but that’s all stuff that can be fixed. For some issues, that falls on con-staff and the hotel to fix…and for others, it’s a matter of learning from experiences and making better choices the next year around. But it’s fixable.
This year I followed my con-prepping tips and really tried something different. I tried to find that balance between time spent suiting, and time just walking around and taking everything in. I took less photos and videos because I wanted to remember the convention as something I lived first-hand rather than through a phone screen or camera lens.
Naturally, there were panels I missed, plans that fell through, and things I did not get to do…but those were small things that I took as they were. I did not feel as ‘obligated’ to do certain things and I did not push myself to rush to everything that looked interesting. So, by far, this was a much more relaxed and stress-free con than the previous year’s. This was my wife’s first TFF and she said it was not as overwhelming as she thought it might be. She too was able to relax and she said that she had a blast! She saw some amazing suits, and we ran around and played, and everything about it was a good time despite the massive bill that we placed on our credit cards.
So, I still say that this was a good year for Texas Furry Fiesta…and I can not wait to see how it gets better in the years to come! I’m already looking forward to next year’s theme which was revealed to be Dungeons&Dragons (tabletop RPG)!!!! So let the hype and countdown for 2019 begin!!!!!
But let me know what YOU think! Did you attend TFF? What was your favorite thing about the convention? What was your least favorite thing? What was your favorite suit that you saw? What about your favorite panel? Let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comment-section down below.
Thank you all so much for reading, and as always, I will see you all int he next blog! 😉