The annual Chincoteague Pony Swim on Virginia’s Eastern Shore has been canceled for the first time since World War II because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The pony swim became well known after the 1961 movie “Misty,” which was based on the book “Misty of Chincoteague,” by Marguerite Henry. Chincoteague and nearby Assateague Island are known for their free-ranging herds of wild horses. An annual pony swim in the summer between the two spots draws thousands of visitors.
The event is run in large part by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Co. Foals are auctioned the day after the swim, which officials say helps to keep the herd from growing too large. The event raises money for the fire department, which cares for the ponies on the island.
In a statement posted Monday on its Facebook page, Alex Tucker, president of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Co., said that “after carefully analyzing the three phases” for Virginia, the board of directors voted to cancel the event. The swim was to start July 2.
“This was not an easy decision to make, with the last pony penning being canceled over 78 years ago” during World War II, he said. This year was to be the 95th anniversary of the event.
He added, “we know how much this community loves this fire company and supports our carnival but with the restrictions put into the phases to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it was the only logical decision to make.”
He said the foals of the pony herd will be sold in an online auction. Details of how that auction will work are still being worked out, according to organizers. A date for the online auction has not been set.