Chincoteague’s pony swim canceled for first time since World War II; pony auction to be conducted online

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Wild ponies gather after swimming across the Assateague Channel during the 93rd annual pony swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 25, 2018 in Chincoteague Island, Virginia. Every year the wild ponies are rounded up on the Assateague national wildlife refuge to be auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (WAVY) — Chincoteague’s famous pony swim has been canceled due to the coronavirus. It’s the first time the event won’t be held since World War II.

The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company made the announcement via Facebook on Monday afternoon. Fire Company President Alex Tucker said it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it was the right one with the uncertainty of Virginia’s plans for reopening. The event’s July 2 start date was less than two months away.

“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,” Tucker said.

The fire department’s annual carnival has also been canceled.

Tucker says the pony herd’s foals will still be sold by auction as usual, but it will take place online instead. He said more details will be released soon.

“Our longtime auctioneer, Tim Jennings, will be conducting the auction, and it should be a positive event for this fire company,” Tucker said.

Chincoteague is in northern Accomack County, which has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 per capita in Virginia and roughly 1,100 COVID-19 cases (that includes cases from its two chicken plants, which have mostly not been added to the state’s official count). The Virginia Department of Health said the labs that processed the tests are not connected to VDH’s electronic reporting and the results have to be entered manually. The department said some of the 510 patients do not live in Virginia.

Accomack joined Northern Virginia and Richmond City as the only localities to request a phase 1 reopening delay of at least two weeks.

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