91st Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

91st Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim

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Chincoteague ponies swimming across the channel. (Photo: WBOC) Chincoteague ponies swimming across the channel. (Photo: WBOC)
Chincoteague pony swimming across the channel. (Photo: WBOC) Chincoteague pony swimming across the channel. (Photo: WBOC)
View from Chopper 16 of Chincoteague Pony Swim. (Photo: WBOC) View from Chopper 16 of Chincoteague Pony Swim. (Photo: WBOC)

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. - It may only take the ponies about nine minutes to swim across the Assateague Channel to Chincoteague, but that doesn't stop thousands of people from flocking to the island to catch a glimpse of the popular annual event.

Wednesday morning, for the 91st consecutive year, about 150 to 160 horses made the swim across the channel.  Spectators lined the channel in boats and kayaks, and thousands more made their way to nearby Memorial Park to catch a glimpse of the swim.

WBOC was not only able to capture the sights of the swim from Chopper 16, but we also had a camera in a boat right alongside the swimming ponies to capture the amazing event up close and personal.  From that vantage point, you could hear the horses and the saltwater cowboys urging them along.

"The love to swim," said Roe Terry of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department.  "We're clapping our hands and making a lot of noise just to keep them on straight.  Not to make them go faster, they have to hit the shoreline away from all of the docks and boats.  So it was just perfect today."

Many folks in attendance make the trip to Chincoteague for the pony swim part of their annual vacation.  Others came from as far away as the other side of the country to see the swim first-hand, for the first time.

"Beyond our expectations," said Lisa Sapon from Seattle.  "It's magical to come here and experience it.  It's one thing to see it on TV or whatever, but another to be here and experience it."

Once the ponies made it to shore, they were rested for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Then it was time for the parade down Main Street in Chincoteague to the carnival grounds in preparation for Thursday's auction.  The whole day, from the swim to the parade, is crucial for the island and fire department.

"It's the bread and butter of Chincoteague Island.  It's the Disney World.  It's the Daytona 500.  We wait all year long and it makes everything worthwhile and it's the main fundraiser we have to raise money for the new fire station we're building," Terry said.

It's clear the popularity of the annual swim and parade could keep the event going for at least another 91 years on Chincoteague.

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