The Furries are coming! Once again Pittsburgh welcomes Anthrocon for its 2015 Annual Convention, July 9-12, and this year the Furries are taking to the streets in the traditional parade that will be outside for the first time.

From Thursday through Sunday, the annual Anthrocon Convention will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Also known as “the Furries,” the international convention has been hosted in Pittsburgh since 2006 and is the largest of its kind with 6,000 attendees representing 34 different countries expected this year.

“Pittsburgh is unique among cities that I have attended or been involved in planning events like this because, let’s face it…it can look unusual,” says Dr. Samuel C. Conway, chairman and chief organizer of Anthrocon. “But Pittsburgh not only greeted us, but really rolled out the red carpet.”

Conway (or Uncle Kage as he’s better known in the Furry community) explains that Pittsburgh has embraced the spirit of the annual event, and that Anthrocon “treasures its relationship with the city.”

The convention is expected to bring in more than $5.7 million in direct spending to the local economy. Along with the boost for local businesses, each year a Pittsburgh-area charity is chosen to be supported throughout the weekend in the form of auctions, performances and “bucket-brigade” collections by costumed attendees among other efforts. Over $32,000 was raised for the National Aviary over the course of last year’s convention. The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is the chosen beneficiary this year.

“You’re going to see a lot of folks in costumes running around; it is a unique feature … we are different from everybody else,” says Conway. “We are not a consumer fandom, we are a creator fandom. Every single costume is an original creation. They’re not commercial characters. They are wearable, original works of art.”

Though Anthrocon is mostly known for its uniquely costumed attendees, Conway suspects that the costumed group only represents about 20% of the convention with the majority being animators, writers, puppeteers, comic book artists, performers and casual fans.

“We’re not just costumers, there’s a lot more to us,” he says.

The 2015 theme is “Viking Invasion.” Though it’s a colorful and unique subject for attending artists to run with, it’s also a nod to the large number of Scandinavian fans expected to be in attendance. Guests of Honor this year are voice artist Kimlinh Tran and Ted Giannoulas, who is credited with creating the professional sports mascot with his persona, the San Diego Chicken.

Events throughout the convention weekend include a Dealer’s Room, art show and “artist alley” for on-the-spot creation, evening entertainment, dances, panel discussions, workshops and how-to presentations. Though membership is required for attendance, Anthrocon has day passes for the curious passerby.

“We have something for just about everyone,” says Conway.

If a 24-hour membership doesn’t suit you, the annual parade or “Fursuit Walk” will take place at 2 p.m. outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (10th Street) on July 11 and is open to the public for the first time.

“The people of Pittsburgh have been very good to us, and the parade is our showpiece. We’re very excited to share it,” says Conway.