Burrumbuttock Hay Runners pulls into Armidale Showground with help for 700 farmers

PARKED: Uralla's Mitch Elks and his partner Jenny Bird arrived home in the Armidale Showground.
PARKED: Uralla's Mitch Elks and his partner Jenny Bird arrived home in the Armidale Showground.

About 180 big trucks loaded with an assortment of hay bales snaked their way into Armidale on Saturday afternoon amid the huge welcome of people lining the route.

For Mitch Elks it was an unfamiliar greeting on a familiar road because he was one of four drivers in the convoy who live in Uralla.

"We left Wednesday night, loaded in Burrumbuttock on Thursday and stayed at Walbundrie for the night, were they had the camp set up, and then headed back up," he said.

"We had a heap of hay to do before [this]. I usually cart a road train down and back, we've been carting out of Victoria. We got everyone full so we would have a week to go down and do this.

"Dad was going to come too, he's got his truck sitting at home, he had a heart attack before Christmas, but he wants to get up here tomorrow, I think."

Heath Willis from Mossvale, an hour-and-a half south of Sydney, led the convoy into the city and through the streets.

"I've done a half a dozen of these now, and there's actually no words to explain what I get out of it," he said.

He said a couple of trucks overheated on Moonbi Hill, which led to a breakdown.

Fifty trucks entered Armidale ahead of the main body of the convoy.

"Otherwise it was a real smooth trip up, Sydney was unexpectedly quiet, everybody had a real good run on Friday.

Martin Northcott from Glencoe was a member of the Mt Gambier Hay Run that joined the Burrumbuttock team.

"This is our third day of driving to get here," Martin said.

"It's a good bunch of guys, and the response we had when we hit NSW yesterday was unbelievable.

"Being farmers, we've been in the same boat many years ago, and you help a mate out when he needs it because you never know when you're going to need it yourself."

Martin and Judy Northcott with Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray.

Martin and Judy Northcott with Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray.

Judy has been married to Martin for 40 years and their load of more than 25 ton of second cut lucerne hay was grown on her cousin's farm in Keith.

"We'd organised and paid for the load prior and then we thought we would donate some," she said.

"This trip has been very overwhelming. The camaraderie and gratefulness of everybody, it's awesome.

"It's the first break away from home that we've had in 10 years too," she said, then laughed at the thought. "It's the first holiday we've had in 10 years!"

Cr Diane Gray with Jim Parrett.

Cr Diane Gray with Jim Parrett.

Driver Jim Parrett said the experience of coming through Tamworth, Uralla and Armidale was something special.

"Some of the smaller villages were good, but Tamworth, there must have been 20,000 people lining the streets, saying thank you and waving," he said.

"It left you with a bit of lump in your throat. And then Uralla was fantastic. That's a small community, but they must get a lot of visitors there because I didn't think their population was that big.

"And then coming into Armidale was just so beautiful, I mean, people were just so appreciative and it just gladdens your heart."

Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall looked at the line of trucks and then at the darkening sky.

"It's astounding, and it looks like they've brought the rain with them too," he said.

"Hay and rain, you couldn't ask for anything more.

"It's not just the 700 farmers who are going to benefit from this hay, the sheer raw emotion from a lot of people, who are just floored at the sheer scale of the thought, the effort that goes into organising and bringing something like this here.

Mr Marshall said the run would pay nothing to the Showground Trust for the use of the grounds.

Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray said he thought the main message was that the Australian community cared for this area.

"The drivers, these people who have supplied the hay, they're providing the entertainment tomorrow night," Cr Murray said.

"They're not just providing hay. They're bringing festivity, good wishes, all this to our community."

Armidale Show Society president Kelso Looker with society committee members Adam and Jess Tadman.

Armidale Show Society president Kelso Looker with society committee members Adam and Jess Tadman.

From 5pm to 12am on Sunday evening the Armidale Show Society will be catering for an expected 2000 people. There will be a bar and Sara Storer will perform on the night.

President Kelso Looker admitted the society was a little out its comfort zone.

"Hats off to Bumper and Belinda for organising it, we're just doing one part of it," he said.

We cater for when we put on our own events, but other than for the show where we expect the numbers, this is the biggest single event we've had to cater for, in my time as president that is."