Ponies Swim, Brings "Biggest Week" To Chincoteague - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Ponies Swim, Brings "Biggest Week" To Chincoteague

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CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. - Storms rolling into Chincoteague couldn't keep Joanna Miele and her family from wading in the water to get a glimpse of the ponies.

She traveled all the way from Cleveland just to watch the ponies swim then gallop through the streets.

"Only a grandmother would [sit through the rain] for her granddaughter," said Miele. "The fact that it benefits the town itself, the fire department, the police department, I think that's a big draw."

In fact, the ponies mean more to the town than just this week, July 20th-26th. According to Chincoteague officials, close to 30,000 people are expected to take to the streets and local shops. Chincoteague mayor Jack Tarr calls the yearly event the "biggest week we have" in the town.

Just from the Bay Bridge Tunnel, last year 22,380 vehicles traveled to and from the Eastern Shore the Saturday after Pony Penning. Officials say it was the most traveled day on this particular bridge for the month of July. To compare, the Bay Bridge Tunnel saw 242 more cars on July 20th.

At least one hotel, Waterside Inn on Main Street starts planning a year in advance. Owner Donna Mason says "quite a few" repeat customers start booking out rooms from her 45 unit complex a year in advance.

"They plan their whole year around coming to Chincoteague for the pony swim," said Mason.

According to Mason, Waterside Inn is completely booked for this week. Mason could not estimate how much money she has made so far this week, but says that she charges $150-275 per room, depending on the  type of room, placement of room, and how many people will be staying at any given time.

Mason says, however, that her hotel is typical of many in surrounding cities for this time of the year.

"People who stay in the hotels all around a lot will stay in Salisbury. A lot will stay in Ocean City. A lot will stay in Crisfield and as far as Cape Charles to get rooms."

But its not just the businesses that are making money.  The pony swim also sets up a big fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. According to vice president/public relations officer Denise Bowden, last year the fire department raised $96,252 from 67 ponies their annual auction. She says even with 14 less ponies to auction off this year, any amount of money helps the fire department.  

"Everything about Chincoteague is built around the Chincoteague pony," said Bowden. "It's who we are. It's what we do."

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