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West Rogers Park Pitmaster Dons Pig Costume Mask to Face the Cold

By Benjamin Woodard | January 7, 2014 6:45am
 Jared Leonard wore the pig head because "It was the warmest face mask I own."
Jared Leonard's Pig Mask
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WEST ROGERS PARK — Well, that's one way to stave off Chicago's extreme, subzero cold.

Jared Leonard, the owner and pitmaster of Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse at Western and Lunt avenues, donned a pink pig-head mask to keep "toasty" warm Monday while completing his outdoor chores.

"It's the warmest face mask I own," Leonard said on his restaurant's Facebook page Monday morning, where the 33-year-old was pictured in his mask with his dog Hogan.

Before he hit the streets of Rogers Park, the former Colorado ski bum said he searched his closet in vain for one of his old cold-weather ski masks.

"This was the next best thing — and my dog got a proper walk," said Leonard on the sidewalk outside his smokehouse, where he was shoveling snow while wearing the pig mask.

Many Chicagoans hibernated Monday as temperatures dropped to 16 degrees below zero and Chicago Public Schools canceled classes.

Leonard said he bought the pig costume four years ago to promote his newly opened restaurant, which is now known for its pulled pork and St. Louis-style spareribs.

On opening day, one of his employees danced in the costume on Western Avenue to attract costumers, he said.

And even though temps never dipped below 50 degrees that October day, the employee complained that the costume became too hot.

"I was like, 'Come on, how hot could it be? I will go out there and dance in the pig costume,' " he said.

But Leonard, too, found just how hot the swine costume could be — and it sat in his closet until Monday morning.

"Today when I was going out to walk my dog, I was thinking I need to put on something warm," he said. "I didn't want to get in full gear, but the head is really what I needed to cover."

The pig mask was just what he needed to fend off a wind chill that reached minus-40 degrees at O'Hare.

"It was nice and toasty. At one point I had to take it off it was so hot," he said. "The only downside is it's hard to see."