Whatever Happened to RainFurrest?

There used to be a fairly large #furry convention in Seattle called #RainFurrest. RainFurrest conventions occurred annually beginning in 2007 and ran through 2015 for a total of 9 conventions. Attendance for the inaugural 2007 convention was 370. This grew steadily until it reached its highest attendance of 2,704 attendees in 2015. Unfortunately, 2015 was the last RainFurrest convention to occur. What happened?

RainFurrest 2015 was a 4-day event that began on Sept. 24, 2015 and ran through Sept. 28, 2015. From what we have been able to uncover, a myriad of problems that occurred at this final convention is what brought about the end of RainFurrest. While not all of the information that lead to RainFurrest’s demise has ever been published, enough information exists to get a good idea as to what probably occurred. What it essentially boils down to is multiple types of inappropriate behavior & activities that some of the convention attendees had engaged in while at the convention’s venue: the Hilton Hotel located near the Seattle-Tacoma airport (known as Seatac).

The full extent of what had occurred at RainFurrest 2015 came out in small chunks, the first of which appears to be a letter to attendees from the RainFurrest board that was posted on Reddit. While the letter begins by mentioning many of the good things that occurred at the convention, it includes a list of problems identified by the RainFurrest board that occurred at the hotel:

  • For the last few years, the Hilton sustained more damage during RainFurrest than it did from every other event at the Hilton the entire rest of the year. This doesn’t even include damage to guest rooms or other incidental wear and tear like the elevators.

  • This year’s incidents include two plumber calls, a flooded bathroom that soaked the offices underneath, towels stuffed into a hot tub pump, and multiple petty vandalisms and thefts. A final damage report is still being compiled.

  • We had to send three people to the hospital and call the police twice.

  • By Sunday morning of con this year, the hotel was so exasperated that they were threatening to evict attendees for single noise complaints.

But this wasn’t all. Hilton’s headquarters sent a letter to RainFurrest that included a long list of complaints:

* Two attendee drug overdoses that required medical response and hospitalization for both attendees;
*Over 2000 spend nitrous oxide cartridges which are used as an illegal inhalant were found discarded in a guest corridor after the group checked out;
*A drug arrest in the adjacent parking lot of a person that police believe had ties to the RainFurrest group;
*A RainFurrest volunteer staff member was reported to have sexually assaulted a female attendee (the responding Sheriff charged the man);
*A guest room smoke detector was tampered with and discarded in a guest corridor;
*An elevator inner door cable was broken by an attendee trying to force the door open;
*A RainFurrest security staff member was seen using marijuana;
*Hilton received a phone call and follow up e-mail from an attendee complaining about rampant drug use and alcohol consumption that was allowed by RainFurrest staff.

While we’re not sure when Hilton’s headquarters sent their letter, it was probably sometime in October, 2015 as suggested by a Feb. 5, 2016 post on the RainFurrest website explaining that RainFurrest organizers had been looking for a new venue for 2016 since October, but had failed to find one. A snippet of that post is listed below:

“As many of you know, RainFurrest has been in search of a new venue since October 2015. We have discussed and explored facilities in many wonderful areas, finding options with a number of excellent venues in Greater Seattle and western Washington state. Our hard-working hotel team has fought for every possible option that would suit what our fans want out of RainFurrest. Tonight, the last of those options has closed to us.”

Hence, RainFurrest 2016 never occurred. After the search for a willing venue in western Washington (which is closest to Seattle) had been exhausted, attempts had even been made to move the event to Spokane, which is in eastern Washington; but according the Tank Winters (a.k.a., Trapa), someone had sent letters to the hotel in Spokane that encouraged them not to sign a convention contract with RainFurrest. (That is further explained in the video that we posted below.) RainFurrest was then completely shut down in or before February, 2017, which is when the final tweet was made on the RainFurrest Twitter account saying farewell.

The following video is from a 2016 convention panel in Vancouver, B.C. with Tank Winters (a.k.a., Trapa) who was one of the organizers & board members of RainFurrest. He gave a rather detailed look into what happened at and after the final 2015 RainFurrest convention, as well as the attempts to have a 2016 convention at a different venue.

Another YouTube video was posted in early 2017 summarizing everything that had occurred at RainFurrest 2015 and why the convention could not find another venue. Some of the things in this video are exaggerated, but it still gives an idea as to what was occurring:

A longtime RainFurrest attendee & helper also posted a video blog regarding his thoughts on RainFurrest in Feb. 2016.

From everything we’ve seen, the number one problem that got RainFurrest shut down was drug use by some attendees at the final 2015 convention. Residents of Washington state had approved the use of recreational cannabis in 2012 and the first recreational cannabis stores in Washington opened to the public on July 8, 2014. That, however, didn’t obligate hotels like the Hilton to permit the use of cannabis at their locations. Unfortunately, some attendees chose to ignore this prohibition by the hotel and used cannabis anyway, along with a variety of other prohibited drugs and inhalants.

The question is, did all of the attendees truly understand that drugs couldn’t be used at the hotel? When we read the RainFurrest 2015 Code of Conduct, there is actually no mention of drugs in the Code of Conduct at all. While there is a reference to following the hotel’s rules and policies,

“As a convention attendee, you are a guest of the hotel and must abide by the hotel’s rules and policies whenever you are on the premises.”

there was no link to what those hotel rules and policies were as of 2015. This, in our opinion, was something that the RainFurrest board failed to publicize.

While tampering with a smoke detector was probably a major issue for the hotel (due to liability), we strongly believe that the lack of adequate security provided by the RainFurrest board was the other major contributing factor to the demise of the convention.

Thus, drug use and lack of security (plus all of the vandalism that occurred at the hotel) greatly damaged the reputation of the RainFurrest convention, its attendees and its board. While the problems were likely only due to a small number of attendees, it was enough to harm the entire convention.

As we posted in April of this year, the public perception of costumers, cosplayers & furries is the responsibility of all costumers, cosplayers & furries. Once reputation has been damaged, it’s usually very difficult to rebuild.

References

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Fursuiters Do Something that No Other Cosplayers Do: Dance Contests

What you won’t see at a typical comic or anime convention you will see at a #furry convention: a dance contest! These #fursuiters (or #furries) not only put a lot of effort into their #fursuits, but their dance moves while wearing their fursuits as well.

Here’s a furry dance competition that occurred this past weekend at Furry Weekend Atlanta (or #FWA) and was filmed by Fursuiter Blazzer:

Regardless of what type of #cosplay you enjoy, it’s ultimately about having fun.

References:

Inappropriate & Unacceptable Cosplays

At the end of 2017, we posted a topic regarding the rules of #costuming & #cosplay. Beyond those rules (that are based on actual laws, venue rules, etc.), some #cosplays are inappropriate and unacceptable because of cultural standards. While some jurisdictions and venues prohibit these types of cosplays & practices listed below, not all do; but that doesn’t mean that they are any less inappropriate & unacceptable.

The reasons why certain types of cosplays & practices are inappropriate & unacceptable will become clear as you read the examples below.

Blackface

For anyone unfamiliar with this term, blackface refers to the practice of non-black individuals (usually performers) putting on dark makeup in order to appear black. Dating back to the 18th century, blackface was used by white performers to create demeaning, stereotypical caricatures of blacks for minstrel shows. The practice continued until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s in the United States, but continued elsewhere for several years or decades longer, such as the U.K., where it continued until 1978. Some occurrences continue to this day in some counties.

Blackface is widely regarded as being completely inappropriate & unacceptable due to its demeaning & racist portrayal of African Americans. Movies and cartoons that were filmed with blackface scenes are no longer broadcasted in the United States, even by cable-only TV channels.

Any cosplayer that decides to apply dark makeup in order to appear to have darker skin than they actually do may be accused of being racist even if there was no racism intended by the cosplayer. We therefore highly recommend that no cosplayer use any form of blackface.

An example that was posted to Twitter in 2016:

From Twitter.

Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation can be defined as the appropriation of elements of an oppressed culture by a people who have historically oppressed those they are taking the elements from and who lack the cultural context to properly understand, respect, or utilize those elements. Thus, it is not a a mutual cultural exchange that has occurred in an equal manner, nor was any permission granted by the oppressed culture.

Within the context of costumes, the wearing of anything that represents a cultural or racial stereotype should be avoided. Anyone wearing a costume that is deemed blatantly racist & stereotypical may be called out as being worn in poor taste or the wearer may be accused of being racist. Examples would include the following:

  • Traditional Native American dress.
  • Mexican sombreros and ponchos.
  • Jamaican dreadlocks.
  • Japanese geisha or samurai.
  • Dressing as a homeless person.

An example that was posted to Twitter in 2015:

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From Twitter.

Nazi Symbols & Uniforms

Nazism began as a 20th century political party in Germany before the outbreak of World War II. It’s leader, Adolf Hitler, adopted a symbol (called the swastica) originally used for peace in Buddhism and reversed its direction to represent the Nazi Party and its extreme racism and antisemitism. Under Hitler and the Nazi Party, Germany started World War II in 1939 by invading neighboring Poland, which then escalated to consume nearly all of Europe and parts of North Africa in war. But, even before the war started, German Jews and others that the Nazis didn’t like (including homosexuals, communists, people with disabilities, etc.) were systematically rounded up and sent to concentration camps where Nazis began to murder them in large gas chambers that were disguised as showers. By the time Nazis were defeated in World War II, they had murdered at least 12,000,000 people in the concentration camps. Of those 12,000,000, half were Jews.

Long after the end of World War II and the Nazi Party in Germany in 1945, white nationalists in the United States and elsewhere have adopted Nazi symbols and continue to spread similar racist, homophobic and antisemitic hatred. Thus, anything associated with the Nazis, including its symbols and uniforms, is highly inappropriate and unacceptable. In fact, some conventions have banned the wearing of any Nazi symbols on cosplays.

Unfortunately, there are some who do actually wear Nazi symbols and uniforms to comic, anime & even furry conventions. In fact, one such incident just occurred this weekend in Houston at Anime Matsuri, an anime convention.

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Cosplayer dressed in a Nazi uniform at Anime Matsuri 2018.

References

Con-Crud Followup: Mumps Exposure at Large Non-Cosplay Event

As a follow up to our recent post about #ConCrud at comic, anime & furry #conventions, potentially 230,000 people may have been exposed to #mumps at a Texas cheerleading competition in February of this year. Of those, more than 25,000 of the attendees were athletes and coaches, according to the National Cheerleading Association (NCA).

Mumps is an extremely contagious viral infection of the salivary glands that most commonly affects children. While most people born after 1957 have been vaccinated against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR), a few hundred cases of mumps usually occur each year. Large outbreaks of mumps occurred in the United States in 2006 and 2009–10 with more than 6,000 and 3,000 cases (respectively) reported in those years. A mumps outbreak at Penn State University infected 86 people.

While no specific cases of illness were reported as of the time that the CNN article was written on March 9, 2018 regarding the NCA cheerleading competition last month, the incubation period for mumps can range anywhere from 12 to 25 days. Typically, symptoms appear between 16 and 18 days of exposure and infection according to the CDC.

Mumps Symptoms

The most common symptoms for mumps include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides (parotitis)

Parotitis occurs only in 31% to 65% of individuals infected with mumps. From 15% to 27% of people with mumps will have no signs or symptoms of illness; others may have respiratory symptoms or only nonspecific symptoms such as headache, loss of appetite, and low-grade fever. Thus, not everyone may know that they are sick or that the sickness that they have is mumps.

How Mumps Spreads

Mumps spreads from person to person via droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The virus may also be spread indirectly when someone with mumps touches items or surfaces without washing their hands and then someone else touches the same surface and rubs their mouth or nose. Mumps is less contagious than measles or chickenpox.

Mumps Complications for Adults

While mumps is usually a mild disease for children, adults may have more serious disease and potentially more complications.

Post-puberty males could experience orchitis (testicular inflammation) as a complication of mumps. This may involve pain, swelling, nausea, vomiting, and fever, with tenderness of the area possibly lasting for weeks. Approximately half of patients with orchitis have some degree of testicular atrophy, but sterility is rare.

In females who are post-puberty, inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis) and/or breasts (mastitis) can occur. An increase in spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) has been found among women who developed mumps during the first trimester of pregnancy in some studies but not in others. There is no evidence that mumps causes birth defects.

Deafness, in one or both ears, can occur in approximately one per 20,000 reported cases of mumps.

People who Need Secondary MMR Vaccinations

Adults who are at a higher risk of exposure to measles, mumps, and/or rubella and may need a second dose of MMR vaccine unless they have other evidence of immunity; this includes adults who are:

  • Students in postsecondary educational institutions (for measles and mumps)
  • Healthcare personnel (for measles and mumps).
  • Living in a community experiencing an outbreak or recently exposed to the disease (for measles and mumps).
  • People planning to travel internationally (for measles and mumps)
  • People who received inactivated (killed) measles vaccine or measles vaccine of unknown type during 1963-1967 should be revaccinated with two doses of MMR vaccine.
  • People vaccinated before 1979 with either killed mumps vaccine or mumps vaccine of unknown type who are at high risk for mumps infection (e.g., people who are working in a healthcare facility) should be considered for revaccination with 2 doses of MMR vaccine.

Mumps Cases in the U.S. by Year

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Mumps Cases by State as of May 1, 2017

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References