Annual pony swim

Spectators watch from the water as the ponies finish their swim across Assateague Channel. (CHRIS DETRICK, Baltimore Sun / July 25, 2011)

The pony swim is a summertime tradition that's not to be missed.

The wild ponies at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island — the Virginia portion of it — are rounded up for a swim across the channel to Chincoteague Island, where they will be herded down Main Street and auctioned off at the carnival grounds.

The event takes place on the last Wednesday of July.

The plan: The action starts at "slack tide," which can be any time between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., as the ponies swim across the Assateague Channel, south of Memorial Park on the east side of Chincoteague Island. After they arrive, the ponies are rested for almost an hour before being paraded to the carnival. The auction takes place on Thursday and the remaining ponies make the return swim on Friday.

The details: There is little parking, however, so visitors are encouraged to go to Chincoteague High School (4586 Main St.) and take the free shuttle to the pony swim. In addition to the ponies, there's also the Volunteer Fireman's Carnival that opens at 7 p.m. and offers food, rides and games. A "Pony Express" trolley will run in the afternoon, providing service to and from the carnival.

Information: For more details and a schedule of events, go to chincoteaguechamber.com or call 757-336-6161.

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