Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction, Virginia/USA (every July)

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 07/27/2011

The Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction, also known as Pony Penning, is an annual event held in Chincoteague, Virginia on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department conducts the event and it consists of a Wild Pony Swim on Wednesday and a Pony Auction on Thursday.

Assateague Island, which spans the Maryland-Virginia border, is famous for its small, sturdy breed of wild ponies. Their true origin is unknown, but romantic legend claims they are descendents of a cargo of wild mustangs carried by a Spanish galleon that sunk off the coast. Today, the Virginia herd is owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. Each summer, they are rounded up by the firemen and swim the Assateague Channel to Chincoteague, where they are penned and examined by veterinarians. They are then herded through town to a corral at the carnival, and some foals and yearlings are auctioned off the next day. The first colt to reach the shore is given away to a lucky carnival-goer. After a day's rest, the remaining ponies make the swim back home. Boats can be chartered for an up-close view of the swim, and free shuttle service is provided from the swim site to the carnival grounds.

This traditional event in its current form has taken place since 1925 to raise money for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, but its roots date back to the 17th century. The event was popularized by the book Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry published in 1947 and it now usually draws from 40,000 to 50,000 spectators.

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