Chincoteague pony swim canceled for first time since WWII
The annual Pony Penning celebration is a perennial tourist draw and fundraiser
For the first time since World War II, the annual Chincoteague Pony Penning celebration, scheduled to begin July 2, has been canceled, Alex Tucker, president of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company Inc. announced Monday.
“Please understand that this was not an easy decision to make, with the last pony penning being canceled over 78 years ago during the second World War,” Tucker said in a statement. “We know how much this community loves this fire company and supports our carnival but with the restrictions put into the phases to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it was the only logical decision to make.”
The annual Pony Penning and Carnival began 94 years ago and has become a tourist attraction and fundraiser for the local fire department. Fire department members, or “Saltwater Cowboys,” herd wild Chincoteague ponies from Assateague Island, across the Assateague Channel to Chincoteague Island. After the ponies swim, they parade the carnival grounds where they are eventually to be auctioned. The event was immortalized in the 1947 children’s novel, “Misty of Chincoteague” by Marguerite Henry and the 1961 20th Century Fox film “Misty,” starring David Alan Ladd.
The feral ponies were most likely descended from animals brought to the area by European settlers in the 1600s, though local legend contends that the Chincoteague ponies, which are also known as Assateague horses, are the descendants of horses that survived a Spanish shipwreck in the area during the 1500s.
In 2019, 57 ponies sold for a record-breaking average cost of $4,767, according to the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce. This year, the auction will be done online on a date not yet announced.
“Plans are still being arranged as to where the ponies will physically be during the auction and we encourage you to keep a close watch on the developments as plans are made public on the auction,” Tucker said in a statement. “Our longtime auctioneer Tim Jennings will be conducting the auction and it should be a positive event for this fire company.”