Metro

Boston Yeti started as a winter stunt. Now, it’s something of a civic duty

The Boston Yeti, also known as Somerville resident John Campopiano, posed for a picture during one of his public appearances.
Eric Gulliver
The Boston Yeti, also known as Somerville resident John Campopiano, posed for a picture during one of his public appearances.

When snow starts to fall in New England, and the forecast calls for a nor’easter, many people feel comfort in knowing that they won’t have to get up, get dressed, and head into the office the following morning.

But the same can’t be said for Somerville resident John Campopiano. He seems to relish in the idea of getting his suit ready for the following day, even before the snowy weather arrives.

Well, suit might be the wrong term — it’s actually a costume.

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Campopiano, 32, is the face behind the Boston Yeti, the now iconic and slightly unintentional mascot who has become a fixture during the region’s many winter storms.

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What started as a gag a few years ago to bring some cheer to a dreary winter has turned into a part-time gig for Campopiano, with people eagerly awaiting — and even personally requesting — the presence of the city-bound sasquatch when snowflakes start to fall.

Andrew Janjigian
John Campopiano, unmasked.

Tuesday’s nor’easter was no different. As the storm walloped the region, dropping more than 2 feet of snow in some places and knocking out power lines, Campopiano was at it again, fulfilling what’s become a sort of a civic duty. He placed the monkey-like mask on his head, fired up his Twitter account, and headed for the great outdoors.

“I’m definitely cognizant of the expectation that the Yeti is coming out once the flakes start flying,” he said in an e-mail to the Globe. “I take the job seriously in terms of recognizing that lots of people look forward to hearing from him and seeing him on social media when the weather takes a turn for the worse.”

So how does one become a mythical creature who rubs elbows with the likes of Mayor Martin J. Walsh and has a devout social media following? It’s fair to say that the Yeti was part of Campopiano long before he ever slipped into the white and fluffy suit.

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Growing up, Campopiano had what he called a “deep fascination” with monsters and cryptozoology, a term used to describe the study of phenomena such as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

“Are they real? Maybe, but maybe not,” he said. “People see things and document sightings — but nobody really knows. That mystery captured my imagination very early on.”

It was in 2015 that he brought his imagination to life. The winter was brutal. Terms like “Snowpocalypse” and “Snowmageddon” became common vernacular. People, to say the least, were fed up with the weather.

“I distinctly remember feeling that the city needed some levity amidst all of the doom and gloom,” Campopiano said. “So I thought offering an alternative to those messages could be fun.”

Campopiano had purchased a Yeti suit for Halloween the year prior, he said. With the snow coming down during a January blizzard, he pulled it from his closet and assumed his new identity.

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For those who initially came across him, the sight of a furry beast creeping through the dusk was perhaps alarming. But Campopiano’s intent was to bring joy — and spread it far and wide.

“Initially, I remember telling my wife that it would be fun to go out and see if I could get pictures taken of me,” he said. “If a local news outlet retweeted them or even featured them on-air, that would have been incredible.”

It became more than that. As the stunt went viral, it was picked up by the “Today” showand “Good Morning America,” and even reached an international audience.

Within hours of setting up a Twitter account and posting a few photos, “it took off and really hasn’t slowed down,” he said.

Locally, people and organizations latched onto Campopiano’s sudden fame. In the years since, he’s joined forces with the MSPCA-Nevins Farm to promote a fund-raiser for animals; organized screenings at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline and the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge; and teamed up with former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie and Eastern Bank to “promote good deeds.”

His favorite stint came the same year he invented the character. It was then that Walsh invited Campopiano to City Hall to shoot a snow video. While there, he met police Commissioner William B. Evans and was crowned “Yeti Mayor.” It was a moment he soaked up, as he leaned back in the mayor’s chair and put his monstrous feet on his desk, he said.

“I never imagined it would gain such traction,” he said. “But I recognized early on that once it began to snowball, I had a responsibility to take the character seriously and do everything I could to nurture that image and be responsible for how he grew and interacted with the public.”

For a time, Campopiano kept his identity close to his chest. Then, in December of that same year, “the man behind the beast” unmasked himself in an interview with The Improper Bostonian, a move he said gave him greater ownership of the character.

“I wanted to continue working with local people and organizations on worthwhile projects,” he said. “So, having an actual person to correspond with about projects made my life easier.”

These days, Campopiano balances his day job as an archives and rights manager at WGBH with his seasonal side job as the Yeti. As for the creature’s future, well, it all depends on the weather.

“There’s an instinct with something like this to want to continue feeding the momentum . . . but I’m a firm believer in the less-is-more mode,” Campopiano said. “Like the caterpillar who spins itself into a silky cocoon and turns into a butterfly, so, too, must the Boston Yeti continue to spin into new and beautiful things. I have ideas.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.