Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction

Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction

Wednesday before the last Thursday in July
The Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction is an annual saltwater roundup of the famous wild ponies of Assateague Island off the Delmarva Peninsula. The volunteer firemen of Chincoteague Island, the largest inhabited island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, become cowboys for a day. They ride to Assateague, round up as many as 250 or 300 foals, mares, and sires, and then guide them into the water to swim across the channel to Chincoteague. There the ponies are penned in corrals, and the next day some foals are sold at auction and the rest of the herd swims back to Assateague.
Legend says the ponies, which are considered stunted horses rather than true ponies, are the descendants of mustangs that survived a shipwreck of a 16th-century Spanish galleon. Another story holds that the ponies were left behind by pirates who used the island as a hideout and had to leave in a hurry. Still a third (and most probable) version is that English colonists, having brought the ponies to the New World, turned them loose on Assateague and Chincoteague when they began to damage mainland crops.
The annual penning probably started with the colonists, who rounded up foals and yearlings to invigorate their workhorse supply. It took its present form in 1925 when the newly formed Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company decided to add a fund-raising carnival to the regular pony penning.
Now a week of festivities surrounds the roundup, with midway rides, country music, and oysters and clams to eat. Tens of thousands come to watch the excitement from land and small boats.
A book featuring the event, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, was published in 1947 and became a children's classic. A movie based on the book appeared in 1960.
CONTACTS:
Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 258
Chincoteague, VA 23336
757-336-6161
www.chincoteaguechamber.com
SOURCES:
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 550
GdUSFest-1984, p. 199