Expectant truck drivers gather in front of the footy club rooms, coffee cups in hand, as Brendan Farrell begins his 5.30am briefing.
This ain't the first rodeo for many of the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners riders.
They know the drill and nod or chuckle knowingly as "Bumpa" begins issuing his instructions for how the day will roll.
It's a 6am departure time, no ifs or buts.
"Yep, I get cranky but I am a nice bloke," he assures those assembled before a stern reminder that he doesn't want to have to tell people things "15 times".
The Walbundrie Showground is a glimmer of lights in Friday's pre-dawn and the soft gleam from the trucks casts an almost magical glow over the grounds.
For Dustin Dalton, 25, from Tempy in north-west Victoria, and Daniel and Kellie Hollingshed, from the Hunter Valley in NSW, this is their first hay run.
Dustin has been following the hay runners' exploits on Facebook "for years" and is excited to be a part of the 2020 line-up.
"I'm from farming and I know what it's like to be dry," he says, rubbing his hand under a battered Akubra.
"Most farmers (up there) can't afford to buy more hay; it's great to do be doing something because the government isn't that's for sure."
Mrs Hollingshed belives the drought has taken a "back seat" given the coverage and devastation of the recent bushfires.
Her husband adds that being part of something as positive as the hay run "gives trucking a good name".
"It gives you a warm feeling to know there is still good in people," he adds.
Mr Farrell describes it as "the pillar of giving".
"This the biggest ballot I've ever done," he says of the Armidale mission.
"There are 730-odd in the ballot - a lot of farmers are screaming (for hay)."
With wet weather forecast for Armidale, Mr Farrell shakes his head as he ponders the next logistical challenge should an inch of rain fall on its showgrounds.
"We'll just park in the main street," he laughs.
As dawn breaks over the hay-laden line-up, the outspoken "Bumpa" delivers his own Australia Day message.
"Just go and help someone you don't know; it's pretty simple," he says.
And with that, he turns, barks out a few more orders and the well-oiled machine that is the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners rolls out the gates bang on time.