The Chincoteague Pony Swim will return this summer. After two years of being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the historic event will take place on the morning of July 27, 2022.
The annual event, called “Pony Penning,” is a way to control the population of horses who live on Assateague Island, a 37-mile long barrier island located off the Delmarva Peninsula. The northern two-thirds of the island is in Maryland while the southern third is in Virginia.
The herd belongs to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. Each year the group, assisted by experienced volunteers called Saltwater Cowboys, round up the ponies and drive them across the channel to Chincoteague Island. The ponies swim across the channel during “slack tide” when there are no strong currents.
Once on Chincoteague, the ponies are kept in pens on carnival grounds and select foals are auctioned off as a fundraiser for the fire department. The swim and auction are highlights of a days-long community celebration that regularly attracts between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors. After the auction, the remainder of the herd is driven back across the channel to Assateague.
Pony penning began in 1924 and was made famous by Marguerite Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague.” It has been canceled four other times—in 1942 and 1943 because of World War II, and in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19.
The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which organizes the annual festival made the announcement in a Facebook post last week: “Pony Penning week will be business as usual with the beach walk, the swim and the auction. Of course, the swim time will be announced later. We cannot hardly wait to see everyone, welcome everyone back, see the laughter and smiles on the kid’s faces and see everyone meet up with their old friends for the Chincoteague Homecoming Week, smell the fritters frying, tasting those good pony fries, seeing the whirl of the ferris wheel and just enjoying some good old fashioned, down home Chincoteague fun.”
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