Mini-post - the rise of Midwest FurFest

Anthrocon’s 17-year reign as the world’s biggest furry convention is over. As many had anticipated, the 2017 edition of Midwest Furfest eclipsed the 7,544 mark set earlier this year by its Pittsburgh counterpart, with ‘around’ 8,700 furries descending on Chicago’s Hyatt Regency O’Hare. I’m not going to comment on whether furries care too much about who’s on top [eyes emoji], but this gives me an excuse to make graphs, and I would be a Bad Statistician if I didn’t take it. (Although full disclosure: there is approximately zero Actual Stats in this, sorry.)

Growing Up

First up, a history of attendance at the biggest (and still active) cons since 2000. The plot below summarizes the eight conventions with over 2,000 attendees in 2017, data courtesy of this WikiFur page, various convention websites and (in the case of 2017’s Further Confusion attendance) some ‘unofficial’ numbers on Twitter. (Historical note: until 1999 the now-defunct ConFurence was the largest convention in North America.)

alt text

I’ve discussed the major trends in a previous post, but an important highlight here is how MFF’s attendance really began to take off around five years ago, close to when it shifted dates from mid-November to early-December. Prior to this its growth was largely in line with Anthrocon’s, but in the years since it has became a matter of when - and not if - it would take the top spot. Only BLFC has seen similar growth (in absolute terms) over that time, with most other conventions showing slower - ableit solid - increases.

(For the stats fans out there: there does seem to be some evidence for the increase in MFF’s growth rate. If we assume a piecewise linear model relating MFF attendance and year then a changepoint is estimated at year 2012.7 with a minuscule p-value.)

Keeping Things in Proportion

Assessing growth rate is, however, tricky from the absolute numbers, and so I’ve picked out the biggest four conventions to highlight their year-on-year growth rates over the past ten years. In the interests of clarity: these represent the proportional increase in attendees compared with the previous year (so an increase from 100 to 200, or 1,000 to 2,000, would both represent a 100% increase).

alt text

While our focus is MFF, what this figure really highlights is the ridiculousness of BLFC’s growth rate in particular. Its 2013 attendance of 704 more than doubled to 1,442 in 2014 and, while it has slowed down somewhat in the years since, it’s still easily outstripping the other big cons on this particular metric. The graph also more clearly highlights how MFF has come to overtake Anthrocon overall: since 2011 its growth rate has exceed Anthrocon’s by 5-15% every year, with both exhibiting remarkably similar shapes from 2013 onwards. In contrast, FWA’s growth rates have been highly erratic - if you have any suggestions for why please let me know!

In any case, one thing we can be confident of is that the fandom continues to grow, and that ultimately it doesn’t really matter which one has the most attendees. Big or small, each is a unique opportunity to meet old friends, make new ones, and experience some of the best aspects of community our fandom has to offer. To that end, here’s to 2018, and who knows, perhaps to a 10k con as well!

Written on December 3, 2017