Chincoteague Island Pony Swim canceled for first time since WWII

CHINCOTEAGUE, VA - JULY 25: Wild ponies swim across the Assateague Channel during the 93rd annual Pony Swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 25, 2018 in Chincoteague, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Officials in Virginia on Monday canceled the annual Chincoteague Island Pony Swim and associated activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company also announced its carnival and pony penning celebration, scheduled for July 2, are also canceled for this year.

It’s the first time the pony penning has been canceled since World War II, the fire company said in a news release.

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Alex Tucker, president of the volunteer fire company, said in a statement that with restrictions installed in phases to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the cancellation was “the only logical decision to make.”

The swim would have marked the 95th year. The Chincoteague website noted that the last time the pony penning was canceled was during World War II.

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports the pony swim moves the horses from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island so that the foals can be auctioned. The auction helps to control the size of the herd, and it’s also a fundraiser for the volunteer fire company.

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This year, Tucker said, the foals will be sold through an online auction. The date has yet to be determined, and plans are still being developed for where the ponies will be located tat the time of the sale.