Chincoteague braces for financial hit, pony penning canceled

CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND, Va. – With the cancellation of the famous Chincoteague pony penning and carnival, an island that relies on summer tourism is facing a harsh reality.

“The ponies last year brought in about $250,000 so it’s quite a chunk and it’s a major hit to our budget,” says Densie Bowden, the vice mayor of Chincoteague Island. “The business owners rely on that pony penning crowd very much so to take them through.”

While many mourn the loss of a beloved tradition, the island is also facing a harsh financial reality because of this decision. “Our citizens here don’t pay a fire tax so the carnival and pony penning is how we raise money to buy the ambulances and fire trucks and take care of the ponies,” says Bowden.

The annual event spans almost the entire month of July but Chincoteague’s mayor says the kickoff weekend is crucial for fundraising efforts. “If they were not allowed to open on July 4th, that’s when they make a majority of their profits is that one weekend,” says Mayor Arthur Leonard.

But organizers weren’t convinced they’d see such a big financial investment payoff this year. “The cost of the food, the cost of the advertising, the cost of the product, and by the time you get all that in place we’ve probably spent one hundred grand to open up,” says Bowden.

Officials remain hopeful that moving the auction online will not only keep everyone safe but maybe even allow more people to participate. “It may open it up to people who otherwise couldn’t make the auction and might give some people more of an opportunity around the world to bid this time,” says Bowden.

Officials are still working out logistics for the online auction. In the meantime, you can support Chincoteague through direct donations or fundraisers that are planned for this fall.

If you’d like to make a tax deductible donation to the fire company, there are two ways you can do it:

  1. Go to their website at and click on the “donate” tab or,
  2. You can send a check to: PO BOX 691, Chincoteague Island, VA 23336

Click here to see details on the announcement of the event cancellation.

Categories: Local News, Virginia