There won’t be any ponies paddling from Assateague Island to Chincoteague this year thanks to COVID-19, according to a spokeswoman for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.
The 2020 Chincoteague Island Pony Swim set for July 29 has officially been scrapped, as well as the Chincoteague Volunteer Fireman’s Carnival and the pony penning celebration.
“It’s ALL cancelled,” said Denise Bowden, spokeswoman for the fire company, in an email. “It was an agonizing decision that wasn’t made lightly.”
The swim would’ve marked its 95th year, according to the Chincoteague website, and the last pony penning to be canceled was over 78 years ago during WWII.
“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 corona virus, it was the only logical decision to make,” the company wrote in its social media post.
Bowden said this impacts the fire company financially, as well as businesses that depend on that tourist revenue.
The purpose of the pony swim is to move the ponies 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.
It usually takes place the day after the swim, and this year, it’ll happen virtually. The auction date has yet to be determined.
“We will plan to be back in 2021 and better than ever,” Bowden wrote.