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Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns for 97th year

It’s time for all things ponies on Chincoteague Island.

For a week beginning Saturday, July 23, pony fever will rise in Chincoteague as thousands are expected to once again make the trip to “reignite, reconnect and recharge with family and friends” during the annual celebration of the island.

Pony Penning Week returns in full glory after a two-year COVID-enforced hiatus.

Chincoteague’s 97-year tradition includes Pony Swim Wednesday and Pony Auction Thursday, the largest annual fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company which manages the pony herd on Assateague Island.

Thousands of people will line the shores of Veterans Memorial Park and Pony Swim Lane to watch the ponies make their annual pilgrimage from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island on Wednesday, July 27.

Charter boats and kayaks packed with spectators line the Assateague Channel, creating a path for the ponies as they swim from shore to shore each year. The town of Chincoteague will provide enhanced viewing of the event on a large Jumbotron located at Veterans Memorial Park.

The festivities begin with the gathering of the southern herd on Saturday, July 23 at 8 a.m. The North Herd will be assembled on Sunday, July 24 at 6 a.m.

The two herds join up for the traditional beach walk on Assateague Island at 6am Monday. The annual Wednesday swim takes place no earlier than the morning slack tide, scheduled between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. this year.

Several ponies were sold on Thursday, July 25, 2019 as part of the Chincoteague Pony Auction.  Proceeds help fund the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which helps care for the ponies year-round.

The foal auction will be held Thursday, July 28 at 8 a.m. at Carnival Grounds at 3648 Main St.

The auction, which has only been held online for the past two years, will take place in person but will also have a virtual component, so register in advance if you plan to bid online.

Although COVID has prevented an in-person auction for the past two years, that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of pony enthusiasts. For the second consecutive year in 2021, the auction brought in record proceeds of over $400,000.

This year’s auction also offers a “unique opportunity” to bid on and possibly bring home the saddle that Maureen Beebe herself owned and used.

The Saltwater Cowboys wait in small groups to surround the southern herd of Chincoteague ponies at the southern herd muster on Saturday, July 23, 2016.

Maureen’s daughters are creating a scholarship fund in memory of their mother and “100% of the sale of this saddle will go directly to the Maureen Beebe Hursh scholarship fund”, according to Denise Bowden, public relations manager of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.

The week’s events culminate with the return swim to Assateague Island on Friday morning.

The Chincoteague Volunteer Firefighter Carnival will be open July 22-23 and July 25-30 from 7-11 p.m., featuring rides, games, raffles and East Coast food, including donuts. oysters and clams.

The last night of the carnival will be celebrated with a huge fireworks display on July 30.

Chincoteague ponies graze and bask around the grounds of the Chincoteague Carnival Tuesday, July 27, 2021 in Chincoteague, Va.  Although the Pony Swim was canceled for a second year due to the pandemic, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company held its annual auction online.  Bidding for the ponies ends Thursday.

While ponies are the obvious stars of Chincoteague’s week-long celebrations, the island offers plenty of other fun activities for visitors.

Arrive early to enjoy the 34th Annual Chincoteague Island Blueberry Festival July 21-23.

The week will also include Buckaroo Bingo, free “Misty of Chincoteague” screenings, a Chincoteague Cultural Alliance family fun day, a “Virginia is for Adventurers” scavenger hunt, music at the dock, storytelling and a farmers’ and artisans’ market.

Visit www.chincoteaguechamber.com/pony-penning and the chamber’s Facebook page for all updates, shuttle map and information including where to park if coming for the day, helpful tips and a full calendar of events. Shuttles will start running at 5 a.m.

Pony Penning Highlights

Gathering of the Southern Herd

Saturday July 23: The Saltwater Cowboys will begin rounding up approximately 50 adult ponies and their foals at the south end of Assateague Island in the South Corral on Saturday afternoon from approximately 4:30 p.m. The South Corral is located on Assateague across from the Woodland Trail parking lot. lot, just off the road that leads to the beach. The South Corral is accessible to the public. Park in the Woodland Trail parking lot or along the beach road.

Gathering of the Northern Herd

Sunday July 24: Approximately 100 adult ponies and their foals on Assateague Island will be penned in the North Corral from approximately 7.30am.

The North Corral is not accessible to the public during the roundup, but once the roundup is over, it is possible to view the ponies by hiking approximately 3 miles (one way) or a combination of 2 miles by bike plus 1 one kilometer hike. The North Corral is located several miles from Service Road.

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Special bus tours are sometimes offered to get to the Northern Corral after the roundup. If bus tours to the North Corral are offered, passengers can usually get off the bus to view and photograph the ponies in the corral. Space is limited and tickets sell out quickly. Call 757-336-3696 to inquire about bus tours.

The walk on the beach

Monday July 25: The Saltwater Cowboys will move the ponies from the Northern Corral to the waterfront, then south along the Atlantic Ocean, and join them with the ponies from the Southern Corral.

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge will open at 5 a.m. To see the ponies walking on the beach, drive to the waterfront and park in the recreational beach parking area. Bring snacks, water, bug spray and cameras to enjoy this special event.

Cyclists and hikers can use Swan Cove Trail to access the beach.

Pony veterinary checks

Tuesday, July 26: All ponies will be vet checked and can be viewed by the public in the Southern Corral on Assateague. Park in the Woodland Trail parking lot to access the South Corral.

pony swimming

Wednesday July 27: The ponies will swim across the Assateague Channel and land on the east side of Chincoteague Island.

The main public viewing area is Veterans Memorial Park at 7427 Memorial Park Drive.

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A large screen will be set up in Veterans Memorial Park with a live stream of the swim. You will be able to see the swim on the screen. No seat is provided.

The town offers a free Pony Swim shuttle service, starting at 4 a.m. The Pony Shuttle runs between various locations on Chincoteague Island and Veterans Memorial Park.

All day visitors are encouraged to make their way to the Chincoteague Civic Center at 6155 Community Drive and take the free shuttle. Special needs parking is available at the Chincoteague Civic Center only.

Swimming takes place at “slack tide”, and the exact time will be announced on the carnival grounds during swimming week.

The first foal to land will be named King or Queen Neptune and will be drawn in a draw on the carnival grounds later today. Tickets are sold every night at the carnival and among the crowds waiting for the swim to happen. You must have a ticket and you must be present to win.

After swimming, the ponies rest for about 45 minutes. Then the Saltwater Cowboys will “parade” the ponies down Main Street, to the carnival grounds where the auction will be held on Thursday morning.

pony auctions

Thursday July 28: The auction, which begins at 8 a.m., has two purposes. First, the auction helps control the overall size of the herd, preventing it from getting too large. Second, the auction is a fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.

Each year, the fire company designates a few select ponies as “redeemed”. A redemption pony is a colt who is designated by the fire company to return to Assateague Island to live out his life there. The winner of a pony buyout will be able to name the pony before it is returned to Assateague.

Feather Fund Award recipient Alexandra Cooper celebrates after successfully bidding on a pony at the 2019 Pony Auction on Thursday, July 25, 2019.

Proceeds from the sale of a foal each year are donated to a regional charity.

Each year, the Feather Fund helps deserving children purchase ponies at auction. The Feather Fund is a charity that was established to honor the memory of Carollynn Suplee, a woman who came to Chincoteague every year to help children buy ponies at auction until she died of cancer in 2003. To learn more, visit www.featherfund.org.

The return bath

Friday July 29: The adult ponies will swim back to Assateague Island where they will live in the wild for another year.

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