The Anthropomorphic Convention is this weekend in Pittsburgh. Athrocon began in 1997 and is now the largest Furry Convention in the world. Over 5500 Furrys will attend the 2015 Conference at the Pittsburgh Convention. The Anthropomorphic organization is a not for profit corporation dedicated to holding this fun conference each year. In the nonprofit spirit, Athrocon has raised more than $200,000 for charities since 1997.
Included in the ranks of participants are professional sports mascots, animators, cartoonist, puppeteers, artists, illustrators, and writers as well as those who simply think that it would be great if animals could walk or talk like we do. I wanted to know more about the people behind the masks. My first interview was with John Cole, a.k.a., KP, a famous character and conference organizer.
John, originally from Texas, is now living in Orlando, Florida where he says that he, “Works to live, and does not live to work.” KP is a peasant guy with a very welcoming personality. His real job is in the insurance industry, but his passion is as a puppeteer who performs as a sheep dog. He volunteers his time with an organization that works with the Make a Wish Foundation in the Orlando area. It’s an amusement park and nonprofit organization called Give Kids the World which operates in Kissimmee near the other parks. It operates on 74 acres where children with life threatening illnesses are treated to a free weeklong vacation. KP described it as a place where children can live out their fantasy story.
He proceeded to tell me all about Jeremiah, a little boy who kept running up to the stage to try to touch KP’s costume. Finally, when it was his turn, KP asked the little boy why he was grabbing at him. As it turned out, Jeremiah was blind and wanted to know what the performing animals were. KP explained he was a large sheepdog with glasses on, and Jeremiah was confused. Why would a dog wear glasses? KP went on to explain that he was Elton John Dog and he was wearing glasses to be cool. He also explained that there was a ferret and a fox on the stage with him.
At the end of their skit, KP felt really bad because Jeremiah had come to the show and not known what animals were performing. So, they decided to make a music video for him. They sent the video to his home, and in the video they said, “Now Jeremiah go to the box that came with the video and take out the glasses because these are the very same glasses that the sheepdog was wearing, and they are cool. Then KP said, “Have your mom go to the box and take out the fur. It’s the very same fur that you were feeling behind my ear.” “Finally,” he said, “Get the little stone from the box.” This stone is a Magic Wishing Stone. It can make our dreams come true.” “Oh, and Jeremiah, we want you to make our dreams come true, too. We want you to get better.”
He teared up a little as he told me this last part. A year later, Jeremiah came back to the park, ran up to the stage and said, “I’ve got something to tell you. I’m cancer free.” That’s what makes KP tick.
In his spare time, KP also works with children with Progeria disease, the aging disease in kids.
Then I met Ned, the amazing musician, a graduate of Berkeley College of Music. Ned, a costumed bear named Rhubarb, and a master of his trade. I could go on and on, but . . . the convention is open to the public and because it is a Cartoon animal convention, it’s fun for the kids. There’s even a Furry Jazz Concert on Saturday. Mark it in your calendar for next year!