Once upon a time there was (and still is) a science fiction convention in the Chicago suburbs called Duckon. At that convention, starting in the early 1990’s, a series of panels and events centered around the furry fandom was established; it became known as the Furry Track, one of several programming tracks at Duckon. Over the years, the Furry Track grew and grew, through the efforts of Robert King and many others, until those attending just for the Furry Track represented a good-sized chunk of the convention, several hundred people.
I moved to the Chicago area in 1998, and attended Duckon. I made a lot of great friends there, and got active in the local furry group, Lake Area Furry Friends (LAFF). After attending the convention, I piped up on the LAFF mailing list that with the success of the furry track, we had the momentum to start our own convention! I outlined a few different approaches we could take, and what might be necessary to start the organization. I was quickly told to shut the hell up, but only because there was a group of folks that was already well underway in planning just such a thing. (My now-husband Dan was part of this group; he remembers that email and wondering, “Who the hell is this guy? We’re already working on this!”)
That was in 1999. The rest is history. Midwest FurFest made its debut in 2000. In the years since, I’ve been Registration Director, Convention Chairman, and, since 2010, Hotel Liaison. I have been a member of the Board of Directors from the beginning, and besides Robert, I am the only other founding Board Member still serving. I have made many, many new friends, and unfortunately damaged and lost a few friendships along the way. I was fortunate enough to meet and fall in love with my dear husband. We celebrated our Commitment Ceremony on Sunday night of Midwest FurFest 2001, and our Renewal of Vows/Civil Union in 2011. Midwest FurFest has been the home of some of the happiest moments of my life, and I am incredibly proud of what we have created. An ever-growing attendance of 4,000+ is an endorsement of that creation.
Over the years, though, the time commitment has risen. What started as “Oh, it’s Labor Day – I suppose we should start planning the con” has become a 14+ month cycle of organizing an incredibly complicated organization that takes 200+ volunteer staffers and another 50-60 on-site volunteers. The last few years have had me working more on convention-related work than the work I’m paid to do in the last month before the convention. I’m spread thinly – not only am I the Hotel Liaison, but I am also the Social Media Manager, Webmaster, Department Lead with several departments reporting through me, and general guy-who-does-stuff-that-needs-doing. I’m not complaining, mind you – I undertook all of this willingly, and for the most part I enjoy what I do. I am proud that the convention Twitter account has a personality, and has a reputation for its sense of humor and responsiveness. I have an incredibly talented and dedicated Hotel Liaison staff who are all a genuine pleasure to work with.
After fifteen years, though, the time has come to say, “Enough.” The convention work is taking too much time out of my life, the worries and stresses from January to December are making me cranky and unpleasant to be around, and I feel like I’m not bringing much in the way of new ideas to the party. I need a break.
After this year’s Midwest FurFest, I’m stepping back. I’m resigning from the Board of Directors and I will not have a management position. I will not be a part of pre-convention planning. Am I going away? Absolutely not! The drive to create and to help is still there, but it needs to be redirected. Tentatively, I will be helping Dan as Assistant Guest of Honor Liaison next year. I hope to also act as a consultant where I can, providing some institutional knowledge when questions come up. And in the future…who knows? I may get more involved in Midwest FurFest, or another convention, or…the possibilities are endless. But it is time for a change now.
I hope to see many of our friends at this year’s convention, which for me starts in just a few hours, when I show up at the hotel. This is going to be an amazing year – the date change, though difficult, means that we have much more time to set up, and will result in a happier and more effective staff, which I believe will make for a better convention overall. Wish us luck!