Chincoteague Pony Swim is an old Virginian tradition that dates back to the 17th century. It is a part of the Pony Penning festival, the annual event held in Chincoteague, Virginia, on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July. On Wednesday, Salt Water Cowboys round up the ponies on Assateague Island and lead them across the Assateague Channel to Veteran’s Memorial Park on Chincoteague Island. The ponies cross the channel during low tide when water is the safest. On Thursday, Pony Auction is held, followed by festivities and entertainment on the Chincoteague Carnival Grounds. The Chincoteague Fireman's Carnival offers exciting rides, games, and excellent food each night of the Penning Week from 7 p.m.
The southern side of Assateague Island is home to more than 50 adult ponies along with the 60 to 70 foals. About 50,000 visitors gather every year to see dozens of Chincoteague Ponies swimming across the channel south of Memorial Park on the eastern shore of Chincoteague Island between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Chincoteague Pony Swim is organized by The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department since 1925. Proceeds the festival go to maintenance and purchase of fire equipment and care of the wild ponies. In 1947, the event was featured in the novel Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Visitors can see the Misty of Chincoteague movie that is showing at 11 a.m. daily at the Island Theater during the festivities.