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Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

Washington, DC
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Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

Has anyone else had the same experience as we did? This was our first pony penning week, and having visited Chincoteague several summers before, we were anxiously awaiting pony week this year. What a bummer! We had been warned that the island is very crowded, but problems went beyond that, although the behavior of the crowds and drivers after the swim really left us disheartened. To us, pony week is for the locals -- people who either live on the island or in the surrounding local area and can come just for the day of the swim. It's not designed at all for tourists; in fact it's really nothing more than a huge commercial rip off for tourists. The locals know the ins and outs, and not much is done to help out the tourists who come and spend their hard earned money for a minimum of 5 nights -- yes, that's right -- most places require a 5 night minimum during pony week, and usually jack up the prices over the regular summer rates for that week. It is literally impossible to see the ponies swim either to or from Chincoteague unless you're lucky enough to have a reservation on a boat -- which needs to be made many months ahead. We tried several as early as March but to no avail. Even if we were able to get a reservation, we would have paid $125 and upwards, per person. The Coast Guard allows tons and tons of boats into the channel, such that it is almost impossible to see the ponies from anywhere on the shore. Any local who owns a boat can just bring it out with his family to watch the swim. If he wants to charge and make money, he must be an official boat captain. The only possibility of actually seeing the ponies is to wait in the marsh (and I mean "IN" the marsh!) at the very tip point where the ponies come ashore, and the locals have that all figured out. Locals were charging $20 for tourists to park their cars in their driveways and on their lawns. We saw one man charging $2 for people to clean their feet off with his hose. We also saw a local charging people $100 per person to watch the swim from his pier, which provided no better of a view than the one we had in Memorial Park. The pony auction seemed to us to be a place where rather cheap people come to find a beautiful pony at a very inexpensive price. Watching these people herd their new purchased ponies into their trailers the day after the auction was a depressing sight. It seemed like they had just bought a piece of furniture or a new motorcycle. It also appeared to us that the locals like to use this time of the season to remind the rest of us that we're not....locals. Forget the "nature" part of Chincoteague during pony swim....it's gone. Not to mention that the town appears to be going more and more down hill...we heard this from some of the merchants and innkeepers. We'll not go back, and recommend that you spend your hard earned money elsewhere.

Williamsburg...
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1. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

I couldn't disagree more! We've gone twice - once we stayed in Salisbury MD, and last year we rented a house for the week. It was a fantastic experience for us. The absolute best time to see the ponies swim is Friday on the swim back. Crowds are much lower, so views are much, much better.

We used the bus shuttles from the high school (so didn't have to worry about parking hassle and fees), and watched from Memorial park the first time, and from near the "landing spot and resting area" last year. From Memorial Park the view was better for me, and I'm very short!

I didn't notice last year what you say about the auction - and most of the ponies did not go cheap. Knowing about the "feather fund" and the "buy-backs" just enhanced the experience for me. The Feather Fund is set up to help children who otherwise not be able to buy a pony, and honors a person, now deceased, who was devoted to the ponies. Buy-backs go back to Assateague to help maintain and strengthen the herd.

To each his own, we each have our own perspective, but I really enjoyed my Pony Week experience, and hope to go back again some day during Pony Week, as well as other times of the year.

AKJ
Bruceton Mills...
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2. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

I was going to let this go until you suggested people go elsewhere. If your expectations weren't met, that's up to you.

I didn't disagree with most of what you said. The difference is that we did some homework before going. We saw the ponies leave Assateague from our kayaks. That was way cool. If you'd rather go to Ocean City, go for it.

The town is changing. I'm not sure its for the better but we'll keep going until it changes completely.

Washington, DC
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3. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

Hello AKJ,

We also did some homework before going as well as relying on our innkeeper for information. We don't own kayaks, so that wouldn't have been possible. Glad you were able to enjoy the swim. My comment on spending money elsewhere is not about Chincoteague in general, but about pony week. I think it is a total rip-off.

FYI -- I HATE Ocean City.

AKJ
Bruceton Mills...
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4. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

OK. There's still hope for you (kidding). Chincoteague that week certainly isn't like it is the rest of the year. We went for 20+ years before going to a pony swim. If you've never been there between Christmas and New Years, try that sometime.

If you want to see pictures from a kayak, look at our website.

www.alandsuejohnson.com

Assateague Island, VA link on the left.

The second year (2004 I think) has the better pictures of the swim to Chincoteague. If you find youself there again, I'm pretty suire the guides rent boats too.

Washington, DC
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5. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

Hi AKJ,

What beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing. At least now we know what we missed. I take it you weren't there for this year's swim. From what we heard, the crowds have grown tremendously in the last few years or so. We were up and out on the Wednesday by 6, and when we arrived at Memorial Park, so much of it was blocked off. Still, we got as close as we could but still were unable to see, partly due to the tons of boats. Determined to try again, we were up again early on the Friday for the swim back, but had the same problem. At least on the Wednesday, we were able to see the ponies march down Pony Swim Lane after they rested after their swim, and they were right in front of us -- breathtakingly beautiful. But one stupid car, from the Animal Hospital of all places, decided to pull out in front of the firemen's trucks just as the parade was about to start, and startled one pony so badly that he got loose from the herd. Fortunately, they were able to get him back safely. This year, 150 ponies swam over, and about half were sold. We also heard that there was a foal born on the night after the swim right in the corral.

AKJ
Bruceton Mills...
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6. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

We didn't make it this year. Two straight years will probably be enough. We enjoyed it both times but it was pretty much the same both times.

We enjoyed some of the excited kids at the auction too. Some of them really wanted ponies. There was one there one of the years we were that they called a medicine cap. He was white with what looked like a brown cap on his head. I got an email recently from the girl that bought him. She found his picture on our site somehow. They were still doing well.

This year Yellowstone national got what was left of our travel budget. We'll have to see what the next years hold for the ponies.

Harrisburg, Pa
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7. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

Seeing that you are from D.C., i thought maybe you may know better....

DC can be exactly what you have described above on any major US summer holiday.....a trap.

Try going a little North to Gettysburg on the 4th of July, its a zoo.

You knew from the beginning that rates would be higher during Pony Penning, that should have been your hint.

I first came to the island in the summer of 82. After a few years we decided to go to pony penning and it has grown and grown since then. You have to see it to really realize the magnitude of it, but as a tourist, once or twice is enough.

You should have known better though......

Sarasota, Florida
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8. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

I totally lost track of how many times you referred to the residents of the Eastern Shore as "Locals" (and did with some contempt). No one forced you to go there or to spend 5 nights.

You may not remember DC on the 4th of July pre-Metro,but you really could park and walk a few blocks and grab a space at the Monument in mid-afternoon. That said, I would never go there now. Nor would I pay what the hotels charge for the night to see the fireworks in comfort! Same,same.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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9. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

Just about any area that attracts tourists have some hint of the "rip off" mentality. If you don't want or like that, they you need to seriously figure out that your vacationing purpose is. But I shouldn't be saying anything that folks don't already know.

Poconos, PA
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10. Re: Pony Penning Week -- what a letdown!

We recently returned from Chincoteague Island, VA. We rented a home in Oyster Bay from Chincoteague Island Vacation Rentals. Please, do NOT rent a cottage or house from this outfit. We arrived in Chincoteague about 6:30 on a Friday evening--check-in begins at 4 PM. We got the key, drove to the house, only to be greeted by the cleanup lady, who told us we couldn't come in for another 2 hours because the house had been trashed by the previous renters. We were told to go "hang around town" and they would call. This, after driving 6 hours to get there. We went back to the rental place, told them about this, they sent another lady out--about an hour later they said we could go the house. OK--first thing we noticed were cigarette butts all over the back yard--thousands of them. The shower curtain in the bathroom was covered with, how should I say this--vomit. We called, the lady she showed up a half an hour later handed us a new show curtain and we had to remove the old one and hang the new one! Now as if this wasn't bad enough we went to go to bed that night and another girl who was with us went to go to bed, turned on the light in her room and low and behold right above where her head was supposed to be the wall had blood on it! Yes blood it was too late in the evening to call them to clean it so we had to get bleach and clean it ourselves! Some start for a vacation that cost us a mint. Two days before we were supposed to leave some else went to go to bed turned on a light because they heard a buzzing sound, and you would not believe the bugs crawling all over the bed and the floor looked like a walking carpet! There were thousands of termites all over the place, now at 11 pm who wants to clean up termites! We found some bug spay which didn't even faze them it only made them mad, we ended up vacuuming them up, we had to strip the bed and even take the mattress outside as well as our luggage that was nearby after all who wants to take termites home as a souvenir! We at this point were infuriated we contacted the rental office the next morning and they didn't believe us however we do have pictures of all of this so if anyone would like to view them let us know. The rental offices response was we can move you to a smaller house, which of course costs less money with no offer for the difference in price, now who wants to move 10 people with only two days left! We said no we want a refund of some of our money they said they would get back to us on that. Later that day they called and said they would refund one days rent, we told them that wasn't acceptable we wanted 500 dollars back they refused and not only refused they said because we wanted five hundred dollars back out of the $2400.00 we weren't going to get any refund of any kind at all! Now if you happen to be an entomologist this place would be heaven for you or maybe if your a phlebotomist it might work for you as well, however if your just a family looking for a nice vacation stay clear of this place for sure! Just so you know whom to stay clear from here is the link to their web site http://www.chincoteagueisland.com/

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