Maine Lobster Festival lobster cooker unloads a basket of steamed lobsters Aug. 1, 2012 in Rockland.

This summer’s annual Maine Lobster Festival parade will have its usual share of fire trucks, floats and marching bands — but you won’t see any politicians or political parties making their way down Main Street in Rockland. It’s the first time in the event’s 70-year history that organizers have imposed such a restriction, citing concerns raised by other parade entrants.

Every August, the summer traffic in Rockland is rerouted away from the downtown to make way for the parade, which last year included Democrat Mark Eves, who showed up to press the flesh at the Maine Lobster Festival parade after announcing his candidacy for governor.

Neither Eves nor any of his rivals in the gubernatorial race — or any other race — will be invited to take part this year. The festival’s board has voted to keep politics out of the parade.

Board President Cynthia Powell declined to be interviewed but issued a written statement saying the decision was made after hearing concerns from parade participants and community reaction to past parades. In one published news story, Powell explained that several parade entrants didn’t want to be associated with certain political groups that may have been marching before or after them.

Some local politicians take issue with the policy change.

“I have a problem with it,” said Pinny Beebe-Center, a Democrat who represents House District 93, which includes Rockland. “This is a community parade, and we are all part of the community. We have the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts and the politicians and the businesses. In the world we’re living in right now it seems there are so many divisions. It seems a shame in Rockland to bring in another division.”

Beebe-Center faces a challenge this November from Republican Maynard Stanley of Owls Head, who is running on a platform of lower taxes, fewer regulations and more personal freedom. Stanley did not want to be recorded over the phone but said he was looking forward to walking in the parade and is disappointed by the board’s decision.

State Sen. David Miramant, a Democrat who represents Senate District 12, which includes Rockland, said there have never been any issues around political groups in the Rockland parade and believes that one of the board members may have been offended by an entry in last year’s Fourth of July parade in neighboring Thomaston.

“People of both parties and independents, people like to see who they are more than a name, and people like to see who they are. It seems like a heavy-handed move with no problem with this particular parade,” he said.

Some critics of the policy change say they hope further restrictions — on religious entries, for example — are not imposed for future parades, as has happened in other communities.

The application for the Yarmouth Clam Festival parade in July prohibits any entry that is political, religious or controversial.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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