Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction
For several decades the annual Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction has been the Eastern Shore's biggest event, drawing up to 50,000 spectators from across the nation. It started in 1925 to raise money for new firefighting equipment. Members of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company gathered the herd of wild ponies on neighboring Assateague Island and swam them over to Chincoteague to auction some of them off.
The Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction take place on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in the month of July. The world famous Ponies swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island (less than 1000 yards) on Wednesday at the first "slack tide". The first foal ashore is named King or Queen Neptune and is given away in a raffle later that day at the Carnival Grounds. After the swim, the horses rest for a bit before being herded though the streets and into the corral at the carnival grounds. The Chincoteague Carnival opens immediately after the swim. Here's a video of Chincoteague Ponies entering the Carnival grounds.
The date for the 2012 Chincoteague Pony Swim is Wednesday, July 25. A shuttle runs the day of the swim to transport the 40,000 attendees to the swim site. There are signs on he island to direct you to parking.
On Thursday, July 26 the Pony Auction is held at the Carnival Grounds, beginning at 8:00am.. Arrive early to get a good seat. The number of foals sold each year is determined by the Fire Company. The ponies are checked and cleared by veterinarians before being released to their new owners.
The Chincoteague Carnival features old-fashioned family fun with rides, games, food, live entertainment, raffles, and more. Fun for the whole family. In 2012, the carnival is open June 29 - 30, July 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 23-38, and August 3-4. There are fireworks on July 7th. .
Find more details about the Pony Swim and Chincoteague Carnival at the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce website.
If you're going to Chincoteague for the pony penning; here are a few helpful tips. Reserve a room way in advance; Chincoteague hotels fill early. Wear sunscreen and bug repellent -- you'll watch the swim from the marshy edge of the channel so you'll need protection. A big hat helps too. Also bring bottled water, snacks and folding chairs. If you have a kayak or canoe you can paddle out to the best view.
Plan to get to the swim early! Be flexible since the exact time of the swim isn't announced until the day before the Wednesday event. The crowd will be large and you'll need extra time to take the shuttle to Memorial Park. Again -- get there early or you may not be able to see!
Proceeds from the Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction fund the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, and are used for maintenance and purchase of equipment and care of the pony herd.