Some events can’t be held virtually. The annual Chincoteague Pony Swim is one of them. With great sadness we learned that this uniquely Virginia event has been canceled this year, another victim of the coronavirus pandemic. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company announced on Monday that its yearly carnival and pony penning celebration, scheduled to begin July 2, will be scrubbed for the first time since World War II. Alex Tucker, president of the volunteer fire company, said in a statement that with restrictions installed in phases to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the cancellation was “the only logical decision to make.”
Every year, thousands of visitors descend on the picturesque seaside town for a week of pony-related activities made famous by Marguerite Henry’s 1947 children’s classic, “Misty of Chincoteague.” The volunteer fire department owns the wild ponies and keeps the herd on neighboring Assateague Island. During the last week of July, the firemen round up the ponies to swim across Assateague Channel to Chincoteague, where they hold an auction to control the size of the herd and raise money for their company. The pony auction still will take place — although online — and no date has been set. But nothing can top the excitement and emotions experienced at the pony swim and live auction.
During this time of pandemic, many people are turning to prayer. In March, the number of Google searches for prayer skyrocketed, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a not-yet-published analysis of search results for 95 countries by an economist at the University of Copenhagen. Similarly, a Pew Research Center survey in March found that more than half of Americans had prayed to end the spread of COVID-19. “There may be still some atheists in foxholes,” Kenneth Pargament, a professor emeritus in the department of psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, told the Journal. He studies how people use religion to cope with major life stressors and trauma. “But the general trend is for the religious impulse to quicken in a time of crisis.” Harness the soothing power of prayer.
May is Military Appreciation Month, and Virginia appreciates its veterans. The commonwealth is ranked as the overall No. 1 state for military retirees by the personal finance website WalletHub. The other best states are Florida and South Carolina; the places with the worst rankings are Vermont, New York and Washington, D.C. Among the report’s highlights: Virginia ranks third in the percentage of veteran-owned businesses; sixth for veteran job opportunities; and seventh for the number of VA benefits-administration facilities per number of veterans. One in 12 Virginians is a veteran. As we observe Memorial Day on Monday, please remember the contributions and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. We owe them so much.
May also is National Historic Preservation Month. Since 2005, Preservation Virginia has released its annual list of Virginia’s most endangered historic places. As the 131-year-old nonprofit explained in a news release, “This year’s list reflects the importance of historic preservation in time of crisis and recovery and how, now more than ever, we can look to our history for encouragement.”
Included on this year’s list are Rassawek, the historic capital and sacred site of the Monacan Indian Nation, located at the confluence of the Rivanna and James rivers in Fluvanna County; Alexandria Elks Lodge #48, a community hub for African American Elks and residents in the Parker Gray Historic District for more than 115 years; Pine Grove School Community, a rural African American enclave of businesses, churches, cemeteries and homes of students who attended the Pine Grove Rosenwald School in Cumberland County; and historic metal truss bridges across the state, which in 1975 numbered approximately 620; fewer than 5% of those stand today.
“We understand we are living through quickly evolving times during this pandemic. Life has changed, and our mission to protect and reuse historic places has become more challenging,” Preservation Virginia CEO Elizabeth S. Kostelny said in a statement. “While we continue to see historic places of all types remaining resilient across the state, our list highlights longstanding issues that need to be addressed and cannot be forgotten during times of crisis.”
— Pamela Stallsmith