Depending on wind and tides, the wild ponies of Assateague will make their swim across the channel to Chincoteague Island some time between 7 a.m. and noon Wednesday. The 69th annual Pony Swim and Auction is expected to bring some 50,000 people to Chincoteague, Va., this week. Once the swim is over, )) the ponies are herded off to the carnival grounds, where they are penned and available for close inspection by prospective buyers. About 80 to 90 foals, ages 3 to 4 months, will be put up for auction between 8 a.m. and noon Thursday. Unsold ponies will swim back to their home on Assateague Friday morning.
Chincoteague's annual Fireman's Carnival provides nightly entertainment (except Sunday) through July 30 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. The carnival, featuring games, rides and food, will be open all day Wednesday and Thursday during the penning.
On the day of the swim, free shuttle-bus service will be available throughout the island from 5:30 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Daytrippers can park their cars at the high school and take the shuttle to the swim site.
Both the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge on Assateague, (804) 336-6122, and the Assateague Island National Seashore, (804) 336-6577, offer hikes, talks and nature programs for visitors in summer. Three times a week the park service holds campfires on the beach.
For updated information on the pony swim, call (804) 336-6161 Tuesday.
The Virginia Highlands Festival is one of the state's oldest and largest festivals, attracting as many as 200,000 people during its 16-day run. It opens Saturday and runs through Aug. 14 in the town of Abingdon, Va.
This festival has something for everyone -- dance and theater productions, music to suit all tastes, historic walking tours, kitchen tours, wine tasting, storytelling, youth programs, creative-writing workshops, demonstrations, lectures and other events. A popular place is the antiques market, held under circus tents on the campus of Virginia Highlands Community College. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and features over 100 dealers. A double-decker bus shuttles visitors between the college and the festival downtown.
About 125 artists and crafts people will set up shop on Barter Green on Main Street and on the lawn of the Martha Washington Inn. Exhibitors come from all over the Southeast to participate in this juried show, open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Also on Barter Green is the food court, and each day during the noon lunch hour you can hear various bands or musical groups.
New this year is a workshop on wearable art conducted by a nationally and internationally known expert on quilting, along with an exhibit of wearable art from Europe. Next weekend, mountain music will be the focus of workshops on all types of instruments, including hammered dulcimer, banjo and guitar, and presentations by local folklorists. There will also be an antique- and classic-car show. Aug. 1 is Creative Writing Day, offering workshops in poetry and fiction. Guest writers include Madison Smartt Bell, Pinckney Benedict and Elizabeth Spires.
Aug. 12-14 is a Civil War Living History Weekend, when you can attend period encampments, cavalry demonstrations and battle re-enactments. There will also be hot-air balloon launches and tether rides for children.
Admission is charged for some events, but many are free. Call (703) 628-8141.
Jousting, Maryland's official sport, can be seen on the grounds of Steppingstone Museum near Havre de Grace today. The Amateur Jousting Club of Maryland will sponsor a Ring Jousting Tournament there from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition to the competition, a Robin Hood skit is planned as part of the entertainment. Museum buildings will be open for tour, and refreshments will be available.
Admission is $2; free for children 12 and under. The museum is at 461 Quaker Bottom Road in Susquehanna State Park. Call (410) 939-2299.
The 16th annual Military Field Days will take place Saturday and next Sunday at Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool in Washington County.
Some 500 re-enactors will be at the fort to represent military units of the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War and Civil War. Camps will be open both days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A commentator will introduce each unit during the opening ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The troops will then march to the tactical demonstration area and perform a mass firing. At each camp, soldiers will take part in military tactics, artillery demonstrations and routine camp life. Each group will have its own tradesmen and crafts people, who will demonstrate and sell period wares. Food will be available.
The National Guard will also be at the park Saturday to perform demonstrations, and a lecture, "Christopher Gist: Frontier Scout," will be given at the conclusion of that day's program. Admission is $2 per person. The park is on state Route 56, one mile east of Interstate 70 at Exit 12. For more information, call (301) 842-2155.
The annual Watermen's Folklife Festival has been expanded to two days this year. It will be held at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield from noon to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Sponsored by the Gov. J. Millard Tawes Historical Museum, the festival focuses on the life of the Chesapeake Bay waterman. Here you will see demonstrations of crab-pot making and net making, oyster shucking, crab picking, basket weaving and decoy carving. There will also be 25 arts and crafts booths and food vendors both days. On Saturday musical entertainment will be provided by a country band, and Davy Crockett will sing original songs of the Chesapeake Bay. A silent auction, boat rides, and face painting for children are other Saturday attractions. Admission is free.
After the festival on Saturday, there will be a dinner cruise to Smith Island. The $25 ticket includes an all-you-can-eat dinner at an island restaurant. The cruise will leave Somers Cove at 6 p.m. and return about 10 p.m. Tickets can be bought that day.
:. For more information, call (410) 968-2501.
Archaeology for amateurs
Visitors can help archaeologists look for traces of Maryland's original settlement during the Tidewater Archaeology weekend Saturday and next Sunday at St. Mary's City. This year's dig on Governor's Field will concentrate on finding the Colonists' first fort, built in 1634.
The weekend also includes guided tours of excavated sites, visits to the archaeology laboratory, archaeology films and exhibits as well as a presentation on the findings of "Project Lead Coffins: The Search for Maryland's Founders."
Activities take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Admission is $5 for adults; $3 for senior citizens; $2 for ages 6 to 12. The fee includes regular admission to the attractions of the state's outdoor living history museum, such as the Dove, Spray Tobacco Plantation, Old State House of 1676 and the Woodland Indian long house.
Historic St. Mary's City is off Route 5 in Southern Maryland.
L For more information, call (800) SMC-1634 or (301) 862-0990.
Head for Philadelphia and the Jazz on the Waterfront weekend Saturday and next Sunday. Hear some of the best local and nationally known jazz musicians at the Great Plaza at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia's waterfront park, both days, rain or shine, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday's lineup includes Jeanie Bryson, Mark Whitfield and Stanley Turrentine. On Sunday, hear T. S. Monk, Chapell and Kleiman, and Joe Sudler and his Swing Machine.
For more information, call (215) 629-3237.