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So a fortnight ago, I had the pleasure of attending the first year of The Great Furscape which is not a convention despite having some con like scheduling and being partly held in a conference centre. The Great Furscape is an event held at the Alton Towers theme park in Alton, Staffordshire which includes convention like events such as fursuit games, photo-shoot and dances but also the rather unique non-furry specific events of 2 hours exclusive use of the indoor water park and also a day at the theme park!


Getting There

Getting there was interesting as I had managed to get a lift in the minibus driven by Bear from Rugby to the park. There were 10 of us in the minibus, some people I knew and some I didn't but it was a good opportunity to start chatting with the folks I didn't know. A fur I didn't know called Scottish Horse put on his music to play in the minivan for the journey which was mostly classic dance mixed in with "ponystep" which I have been told is effectively dance music with sound samples from My Little Pony thrown in. I don't really care about the whole MLP thing but I didn't find the music that offensive :P

Registration & Hotel Check-in

The event itself was primarily hosted in the conference centre in the Splash Landings hotel. Due to the rules of the theme park and the like, we had strict rules about fursuiting as in we were only allowed to fursuit in the conference centre area and not in any public spaces. Registration was fairly swift due to the small number of people in attendance (I think there was around 40 of us in total) and I was quite impressed with what you got upon registering. In the pack, we got a non-con book, non-con badge, neat little laser cut UV fluorescent badge, glow sticks, ear plugs and some sweets, cakes and a cookie. We also got our park ticket so we wouldn't have to queue up the next day when we were due to enter the park.

After registration, we were able to go and check in to our rooms in the hotel which was done separately. The hotel seemed to expect us to check in in our groups but as I was the first of the 4 sharing the room to check in, I had to explain that my roomies weren't here yet and if they could hold the keys at reception for them. While they had my name on record, others apparently had difficulty checking in due to them not knowing anything about the event by name however that was all smoothed out.

On my way to my room, I had my first encounter with the lifts at the Splash Landings hotel, which plays the Captain Pugwash theme while it takes you between floors. Needless to say, this song got in everyone's heads pretty quickly. Here's a video of what tends to happen in the lifts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MslT18ydP2Y :P The hotel room itself was a nicely themed room with a double bed and a bunk bed. On the double bed was a towel which had been folded to look like an elephant which was a nice touch :) I opted for the bottom bunk so I'd have the lowest chance of disturbing my roomies and more likely to have a comfortable night's sleep. The bunk bed was just a bit longer than me so was fine to sleep on.

After dropping my gear in the rooms, I met up with my roomies who were Mikepaws, Hunterhusky and Cueball, a number of us ended up chilling out in the hotel bar which was much cheaper than I was expecting (£3.40 for a lager, while expensive, it was cheaper than I expected for a theme park!) and had a few games of pool which I was clearly terrible at. I could say that was due to being out of practice but it's mostly because I'm just not very good. I like playing tho :P

Fursuit Games

This filled the time nicely before the non-con events started with the fursuit games at 5pm. I was torn over suiting up as I knew there wouldn't be many doing so and I've never done fursuit games before but I didn't want to get the suit sweaty now and then wear it again at the dance which I prefer. In hindsight, I should have participated as it looked fun but I ended up getting a decent amount of video and some photos too. The games included classics such as musical chairs and fursuit limbo :) However one thing I would have liked would have been someone doing a commentary with a mic as it seemed somewhat random in the way things proceeded. I was kinda tempted to volunteer myself for this role as I seemed to be commentating anyway while filming.

Water Park

The games didn't go on very long as we were to have our 2 exclusive hours in the water park from 7pm to 9pm. I have to say that this was probably the best bit of the whole weekend as there's nothing quite like having a water park to yourself (well sharing with 40 odd other people) with no kids or families to get in your way :) The only down side was that the outside area where there were more flumes was closed off, but considering the near freezing weather that day, it was probably a good thing. What we did have access to was 3 tyre rides, a lazy river type thing, shallow paddling pool, jacuzzi and various other ways to either get wet or get others wet. One particularily popular thing was standing below a gigantic bucket which would slowly fill until it eventually tipped over, flooding those beneath. Personally, I really liked the tyre rides, one of which would take you on a trip around the whole water park. The only problem with it was that the water jets had a habit of pulling your swimming shorts down so by the time you got to the end of the ride, you were more concerned about accidentally mooning anyone than anything else :P

I risked wearing contact lenses which you generally shouldn't do but I didn't have any prescription goggles and wanted to see what I was doing. Despite some weird feelings, they actually worked out pretty well and was able to take full advantage of the water park without issue. 2 hours was more than enough time in the water park as we were all exhausted by the end of it all. All of me was aching afterwards having used many muscles which don't get frequent use. The event after the water park was the dances but I had absolutely no energy for dancing after all the water park activity. It seemed that other people felt the same as there were very few people dancing during the first DJ's set. There was also the problem of food. No-one seemed to know what to do or where to go for food and so we ended up placing an order for pizza from some place near the theme park as we were told all the on site restaurants were closed (it was now 10pm).

Evening Dances

Most people didn't want to dance until they had something to eat due to low energy levels however time dragged on and there seemed to be no sign of the pizza. We finally got word around 23:45 that the pizza was another 40 minutes away and so I figured that I would get in fursuit and dance for a bit as I had brought my fursuit all that way and I was going to wear it! I did a bit of dancing for only about 20-30 minutes and then went back to waiting for pizza. The pizza finally arrived around 00:30 and we had to finish up by 01:00 so I quickly ate half my pizza (had ordered a pizza far too large for one person but it was cheap) and then tidied away my fursuit. In hindsight what I should have done was gone to one of the hotel restaurants (turns out the one in the hotel was open with a buffet) straight after showering and getting dressed after the water park so I would have felt more up for dancing and fursuiting.

Some people wanted to stay up until the hotel bar closed drinking but I wanted to go to sleep to make sure I could have a full day at the theme park the next day. I slept pretty well in the bunk bed, although due to all screaming I did on the water park rides, my throat had gotten sore and apparently I had snored during the night :( Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet type thing with all the usual favourites. As we had to go in our hotel room groups (as far as I had been told) to breakfast, we didn't get there until around 9.30 as my roomies had to put things in their cars after checking out of the room.

Theme Park

By the time we headed for the theme park it was about 10am and the queue for the monorail from the hotel to the park was gigantic. There was an announcement over a tannoy saying the queue for the monorail was at least 30 minutes and it only takes 15 minutes to walk to the park. So despite queuing for 5 minutes or so, we decided to walk off to the park. Despite us all being there as a group for The Great Furscape, there weren't any meeting times scheduled and so we ended up just going around the park in our own group of 7-8.

We used the Alton Towers app to work out what rides had the shortest queues and so the first thing we headed for was Oblivion, which is a rollercoaster which features a vertical drop. I was concerned about being too large for the ride as the last time I went to a theme park, Thorpe Park, I had to get off a ride as they couldn't get the harness on. Just to make sure I took every measure to prevent that from happening again, I took off my rain coat and hoodie to try and make myself as thing as possible however, it seemed history was about to repeat itself as once in the chair, there seemed to be a good few inches between the harness and the clip. Fortunately, it seems that they're used to this at Alton Towers as I had 2 girls push down on my harness to get it in place. To my surprise, this worked and I was good to go on my first ride. The ride was pretty intense due to the vertical drop but I really enjoyed it. I screamed like a girl due to the intensity combined with the fear of the harness not holding but it was all good in the end.

Afterwards, we did Thi3teen which seemed like a fairly standard rollercoaster but had a fun surprise midway through. Next Nemesis which again I had to be squeezed into but the clip closed and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. By this point the weather had taken a turn for the worse and was raining considerably so we took cover in the insanely packed Burger King. Time was getting on and I found out that I had to leave by 5pm to get with the minibus group so wouldn't be able to have time to do all the rides nor do them during the dark which is part of the appeal of the Scarefest nights at the park. As we were pretty wet anyway, we ended up doing the Congo River Rapids as we figured we couldn't get much wetter. We were wrong! We got utterly drenched on the ride but apparently there was a stand in drier at the end of the ride. As we looked so silly on the ride considering it was raining and we were on a water ride, we agreed to all chip in and get the ride photo. However ironically as we had all spent our change on the photo, no-one had any money for the aforementioned drier so we had to remain wet!

As the Runaway Mine Train was right next to the rapids ride and time was running out, we went on that, me knowing that would be my last ride of the park. To be honest, the ride was pretty dull compared with the other rides we had been on in the day. It was a shame I wouldn't have time to get on Rita or Air as those were two other rides that I wanted to try out. However I wasn't disappointed, I had a great day and a reason to go back another time, probably next year when hopefully the weather's better!

Getting Back

Anyway, I left the park with Renegade Panda who was also in the minibus with me and met up with the others back in the bar at the Splash Landings hotel. Once everyone had got back to the bar, it was time to leave in the minibus. Folk decided to go via Nandos though I was worried this would mean that I would miss my last train back. I was reassured that I could get a lift with someone if I did miss it. However despite Bear calling ahead to get us a table prepared, serving 12 people will always take a while and despite Bear's best efforts, I missed my train by literally just a minute! Fortunately, the lovely Kneezle was able to give me a lift back to Leamington Spa where I was staying the night before continuing my journey home the next morning.

Summary

For a first year event, despite being a little rough around the edges, I was surprised how well Great Furscape was run. The water park made it a unique event as we had exclusive use of it which was almost worth the entry price on it's own. It was fantastic being able to use the park without screaming kids and families getting in the way! The fursuit games could have used an MC to describe what was going on and I should totally have participated in hindsight! For myself, I would definitely need to make sure that I sort out food before the dances next time so food doesn't get in the way of it like it did this year.

For the park day, it would have been nice to have a meet up with all Great Furscape attendees for a photo or meal or something at one point as we generally just went around in our own groups. That said, it was good we were in smaller individual groups as larger groups move slower due to more faffing about. I'd also need to see about making sure I can stay until the evening somehow so I can do the rides in the dark and take full advantage of the park's "Scarefest" activities. However with it being so far from home, I'd need to be able to sleep over with someone who can drive to the park... or stay a second night at the park which would be pricey.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. I got to meet lots of new people and will definitely be going again next year. I've uploaded all my photos to my gallery and I've given my video footage to Mikepaws who's making an event video for the weekend with everyone's footage. I might still do an alternate outtake edit with stuff that Mike doesn't use however :)

Date: 2012-11-11 01:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tilt-longtail.livejournal.com
damn, I dont think I recognize a single fur there, except for you!
I should make it to the UK someday!

Date: 2012-11-11 01:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slycat.livejournal.com
To be fair, I only knew a small number there before I went anyway :)

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