Happy Trails at Tails & Tornadoes 2023

Two years ago, I had the chance to write about our family’s experience at Tails & Tornadoes, a positive convention for cosplayers who like to dress as anthropomorphic animals. It’s always fun to see a convention grow, so we were super excited to get to go back this year and find out just how much the event had expanded and continued to improve on the experience. 

Although this year’s theme was “Wild, Wild West,” a perfect vibe for Oklahoma, we didn’t have any cool cowboy gear to rock, but we did grab a few of our coolest fuzzy and plushie accessories for the occasion, an easy feat since we seem to be replete with cosplay attire over here these days. As always, we had a wonderful time and couldn’t wait to share the highlights of our convention trip this year. 

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With all of the conventions we’ve covered for TulsaKids over the past few years, we’ve noticed you can really tell which cons are putting that extra effort into creating a safe and inclusive space, particularly for neurospicy guests and minors. 

Right off the bat, here are a few things that stood out at Tails & Tornadoes this year:

1. They’re actively taking extra steps to create a safe environment for minors.

One thing I’ve noticed at all of the anime, comic book, fantasy, and sci-fi conventions we’ve attended is they tend to be a big draw for teens. I love the idea of teens having a place they can hang out with their friends where they’re sharing a hobby together, inspiring each other to create art or write fan fiction. I know a lot of teens will save up all year to attend conventions, pouring hundreds or even thousands of their hard-earned cash into a cosplay and their convention tickets. 

But when they’re dressed up in a cosplay, there’s often no way to tell how old the person underneath it is — a particular problem, I’ve been told, for teenage girls at anime conventions. There are also events at many genre conventions that are only open to folks ages 18 and up. 

That’s why I can’t applaud enough about Tails & Tornadoes’ decision to note minors on their entrance badges with a very visible red tag. Each of our badges were also printed out individually for us with our name or character name on them, which just added that extra personal touch and left us all with a special keepsake that’s uniquely ours. 

2. There’s a sensory break space.

As the parent of an autistic son, I’ve written at length about the need for more neurodiversity-inclusive spaces pretty much everywhere. Our family’s first experience with a sensory space was at Walt Disney World not long after our son’s initial diagnosis. At that tender age, he could quickly become overstimulated, and Disney proved to be more than a little overwhelming. The sensory room gave us a place to chill out in a cool room for a while, turning down the dial on everyone’s keyed-up senses. Ever since then, I’ve been a huge advocate of setting aside a designated sensory space at public gatherings like conventions and fairs. 

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My past experience with the furry fandom and convention culture in general has taught me that neurospicy kids are particularly common in this fandom. But the reality is that almost anyone can end up feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated after spending a few hours at a convention — between all of the people, sounds, and experiences, it can be a lot to take in. 

Add a cumbersome cosplay into the mix, and you can end up with some uncomfortable and overstimulated folks, which is why I was beyond pleased to see Tails & Tornadoes has set aside a quiet space for anyone who needs to make use of it. Located adjacent to the registration area, the quiet rooms had slightly reduced lighting and were free of sound and nice and cool — a perfect escape when you or your kiddo need to take five.

3. The badge tags are a stroke of genius.

I cannot overstate how much Tails & Tornadoes has worked to become Tulsa’s most inclusive convention, and the badge tags are a perfect example of this. As we were finishing up our sign-in process, we were given a chance to choose from a number of badges to help anyone who wanted to use them have a more safe and enjoyable experience. Stick-on tags indicating things like “Do not touch” or “Please be patient, I have sensory processing disorder” have the power to completely change the experience for some folks on the autism spectrum. 

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Convention Adventures

Knowing you’re attending a convention that’s actively working to create a safe and inclusive environment before you’ve even put your feet on the convention floor is a promising sign. But actually getting out there and into the mix showed us just how much this convention has grown through the years. 


I was sad we didn’t get a chance to check out any of the panels this year, especially because there were so many to choose from and attending panels is one of our favorite things to do at conventions. 

We love going to bigger conventions, but we have found that accessing schedules can be frustrating at some of them, and I honestly suspect that affects panel attendance in some cases. This wasn’t a problem at Tails & Tornadoes, where the convention team goes out of their way to make sure guests understand what’s going on as well as any changes to expect. I absolutely loved the effort Tails & Tornadoes has put into offering a variety of quality panels for convention goers and the easy-to-use convention schedule, available both online and in a high-quality printed convention schedule that doubles as a souvenir. I was also impressed to see the panel schedule posted on a monitor in the hotel common area. 

Here’s a sampling of some of the panels they offered:

  • So, This is Your First Furry Convention

Every convention should have something like this, honestly — a rundown of convention dos and don’ts and what to expect. 

  • Help! My Kids is a Furry, I Have Questions

As a parent who has been actively involved in my kids’ cosplay lives through the years, I can’t love this enough. 

  • Songwriting 101

Creativity is baked into cosplay and furry culture, and I love how it inspires many folks to learn to create their own music or art. 

  • Ham Furs Meet & Greet

If you didn’t know, ham radio is still very much a thing in 2023. 

Photography Studio

This is a room with a backdrop and all sorts of fun props for folks to take goofy pics in with their friends. There was even an AI camera that would transform you and your crew into digital characters online if you wanted. 

Dance Competition

Imagine training for months or even years on a dance performance to present in front of hundreds of people. Sounds tough, right? Now imagine doing all of that in a head-to-toe fursuit. I’ve always thought high school mascots were the unsung heroes of the football team, but our family wasn’t even remotely prepared for how incredible the folks were who participated in the Tails & Tornadoes dance competition. 

One thing I’ve always valued about fandom culture in general is the emphasis on learning to grow from constructive criticism rather than take it personally. You see this at anime conventions when the judges give their feedback on cosplay creation, praising folks for what they’ve done well while encouraging them on areas where they could use some growth. Take it from a professional writer — learning to make changes based on feedback can lead to serious confidence-building. That’s why it does my heart good to see kids pouring their souls into a dance routine then gratefully waiting for the judges to tell them where they’ve improved and where they need to put in some work — in front of an audience, no less. 

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Every time a judge would tell a contestant that he or she had improved over last time, praising them on all the work they had put in, it was genuinely like watching a protagonist triumph in a feel-good movie. These young people had so much energy, so much spirit. We’re talking full flips and cartwheels in fursuits — if you attend next year and have time for nothing else, make attending the dance competition a priority. If you prefer to do the dancing yourself, there’s also a dance-off on the schedule each year. 

Gaming Room

No good convention is complete without a gaming room, and Tails & Tornadoes has put in the work to make sure theirs is a quality space with both digital gaming platforms and loads of tabletop games. Gaming is one of our family’s favorite things to do together, so of course we had to spend some time playing Mario Kart on one of the Nintendo Switches available for convention guests. 

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In our hyperconnected world where folks — especially young folks — seem to rarely meet IRL, a convention game room may also be the antidote for meeting folks who share fandoms and gaming interests. As I looked around the room, I noticed several clusters of teenagers and young adults laughing and having a blast while getting to know other folks over a giant game of UNO or Dungeons & Dragons. 

Escape Room

One of the most popular events at this year’s convention was the escape room. Presented by Furry Logic, the escape room involved a unique premise with room for up to eight players at a time. It’s $25 per player, and part of the proceeds went to support an animal charity. 

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Creativity and Cosplay

I can’t overemphasize how much I love seeing folks share in a fandom that makes them happy. Sadly, the furry fandom has frequently been targeted by negative media hype and toxic bullying — hardly surprising as it has historically served as a safe haven for many neurologically diverse and LGTBQ folks. 

But the reality is that it’s like any fandom, which means there are many ways to experience it. Having such a wonderful crew to put on a convention in Tulsa has helped foster a positive, affirming space where folks of all generations can share in their creativity and just have a fun time. Walking away this year with my tween positively beaming was a reminder of how important it is to continue to support these spaces, and Tails & Tornadoes just continues to do an amazing job.  

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Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have a beautiful week in your little nebula!

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