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Minus Surfer Dude, Chincoteague's annual pony swim marks 90 years on Wednesday

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CHINCOTEAGUE, Virginia — An Eastern Shore tradition celebrated by Marguerite Henry's book "Misty of Chincoteague" is marking its 90th year.

The highlight of the week will be the annual swim of the tough little ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island early Wednesday. A group of volunteers called the "Saltwater Cowboys" rounds up the ponies and leads them through the passage at slack tide.

An auction of a portion of the herd benefits the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department.

Pony week on the Virginia barrier island will be missing a key player this year. Surfer Dude was found dead this spring, leaving dozens of ponies he sired to continue his legacy.

Some islanders called him the Misty of his day. During his 23 years, Surfer Dude often led the swim to Chincoteague.

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