TOWNSEND -- Chances are, a group of Townsend teens had no idea what they were getting themselves in for when they agreed to help decorate the common for Christmas.

Members of the North Middlesex Regional High School Service Learning Club and the St. John the Evangelist Youth Ministry reported to Townsend Common equipped with ladders and lights on the coldest day of the season so far.

Unofficial observations put the temperature at 23 degrees with wind gusts exceeding 50 miles per hour the afternoon of Nov. 24.

"It was brutal. I was worried about getting frostbite, it was so windy and so cold," said Colin McNabb of the Townsend Business Association. The TBA purchases the decorations for the common and pays for the electricity year-round on the common.

The team spent almost two hours in the frigid conditions. Some were not dressed warmly enough. "It was so cold I had to send a kid to the hardware store to get gloves," McNabb said.

"When the wind picked up, that was tough," he said. "One kid was 6 foot 4. I sent him to the top and he said, 'I can't feel my fingers.' I said, 'Come down.'"

The TBA and Townsend Ecumenical Outreach have been part of decorating the common for at least 20 years. This year is the first time they asked another group of volunteers to help hang the lights.

The members of the service club need to accumulate a certain number of volunteer hours in their local community in order to qualify for a trip to New Orleans or New York, McNabb said. Their help will be acknowledged during the tree-lighting ceremony.

Ministers from the four Townsend churches joined the TBA and TEO Dec. 1 for caroling, inspirational words and throwing the switch. A program with words for the songs will be available. McNabb promised a special surprise for the younger children that evening.

The churches surrounding the common take turns hosting a music program that is the result of a collaboration of all four churches and followed by a hobo stew meal. This year, the inside events will take place at St. John's.

The Cemetery and Parks Department is a key partner in preparing the common for the holidays. Last year, the town department refurbished the spire and replaced the pole and star on top of the gazebo.

This year, a new lighting system will illuminate the top of the bandstand, Superintendent Roger Rapoza said.

"A big thank you as always from my department to the TBA. They do a nice job," he said.