For several decades, the last week in July on Chincoteague Island, Va. has been full of beach walks, pony swims and auctions. This year was no different.
On Thursday, July 28, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department held its annual Chincoteague Pony Auction, following Wednesday’s 91st annual Chincoteague Pony Swim. According to the fire department, the purpose of the pony swim is to move the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island so the foals can be auctioned.
Thursday’s auction began promptly at 8 a.m. with eager bidders and focused ‘Saltwater Cowboys.’
Throughout the morning, Tim Jennings, auctioneer for the Chincoteage Pony Swim, played the numbers game with the crowd. A total of 58 ponies were auctioned off during the event, raising a total of $151,575.
According to the fire department, the purpose of the auction is to help control the overall size of the herd. In addition to population control, the auction is one of Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s largest fundraisers. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company uses some of the proceeds from the auction to provide veterinary care for the ponies through out the year.
Although the majority of the proceeds go to the local fire department, a handful of the proceeds benefit a local non-profit. Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department’s Denise Bowden says each year the fire department picks an organization of its choice to give back to. This year, several thousand dollars went to benefit the Special Olympics of Virginia Eastern Shore Area 19.
Leslie Joliet, from Greenbackville, Va., helped the cause by purchasing a buyback pony for $8,100. A pony buyback means the pony will stay on the island. Joliet says she especially wanted to give back to the Special Olympics, a cause near and dear to her heart.
“It means a lot to me,” Joliet says. “I have a six-year-old nephew with Down Syndrome so if he had the opportunity like these children do to play sports and to interact with a group of their peers, competition and fun, I think that’s very special.”
Joliet wasn’t the only one bidding with a purpose. Ember Lewes traveled from New York to purchase a Chincoteague pony. Although it was her first time on the island, the young rider has a few Chincoteague ponies on her grandmother’s farm, who attends every year.
“I love animals, every kind of animal,” Lewes says. “When I grow up I want to help every kind of animal I can. I want to be a vet.”
The Chincoteague Pony Auction attracted visitors as far as New York, Connecticut, Tennessee and even Austria.
To learn more about the Chincoteague Pony Swim and activities, visit www.chincoteague.com/pony_swim_guide.html.