SINGLETON welcomed the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners with open arms on Friday evening.
Despite the gloomy skies overhead, many residents lined the New England Highway at Whittingham on January 24 to greet the 180-truck convoy as it entered town, while others were busy in the kitchen preparing meals for the weary drivers.
The organisation is travelling from Burrumbuttock in the state's south to Armidale.
And, after spending a night at the pony club grounds, the hay runners will pass through Upper Hunter locations Muswellbrook, Aberdeen, Scone and Murrurundi on Saturday to reach their final destination.
"It's great for the town," long-time Singletonian Julie Moore said.
"We're very happy to have them here.
"I know there've been some complaints, in regards to traffic congestion [tomorrow], but it's only one day.
"What these people are doing is fantastic.
"They're delivering much-needed hay to drought-stricken farmers.
"They've also booked out two motels and bought local produce [food, beef] - so it's a little boost for Singleton's economy.
"We found out about this stopover a fortnight ago, so it's a short turnaround to prepare everything.
"However, we've got 40 to 50 volunteers catering for 350 people."
Mrs Moore said the Singleton Pony Club, Whittingham and Belford NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) brigades and Whittingham Public Hall committee had joined forces to tend to the troops during their short stay.
"The hay runners are having a private function for dinner, thanks to the Whittingham Public Hall committee," she explained.
"They've been cooking all afternoon.
"Then the NSW RFS guys are putting on breakfast, while the pony club members, including the youngsters, are packing some lunches.
"It's the least we can do."
Brendan "Bumpa" Farrell founded the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners in 2014 after delivering a truckload of hay to a Bourke farmer, who was struggling in the drought.
Five years - and many, many kilometres - later, he received a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
But, the modest man didn't want to sing his own praises or talk about himself, instead acknowledging Singleton's hospitality.
"I'm just so appreciative of everything," Mr Farrell said.
"Thank you to all involved.
"The reception, and support we've received, is fabulous.
"We're just out there helping others because it's the Aussie thing to do."
Mr Farrell also took the opportunity to express his gratitude to NTI - and CEO Tony Clark - for being the run's primary sponsor.
"It's great to have a corporate partner who has backed us for such a long time - four years," he said.
"The drought is only getting worse and it's time for as many people as possible to just get on it and help out."
The Burrumbuttock Hay Runners will leave Singleton at 7am on Saturday.