The 40th annual Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade on Saturday was notable not for what it had -- the usual marching bands, flag-waving children and antique fire engines -- but for what it lacked.
The event became a center of controversy earlier this year when organizers barred the anti-illegal immigration group the Minuteman Project from participating. The organizers said their bylaws prohibited political entries.
The Minuteman Project sued, but lost.
It threatened to protest the parade, but later backed off.
On Saturday, despite the group's absence and no visible protest, the controversy lingered for some attendees.
"I almost didn't come," said Mike Callahan, 45, a longtime parade fan.
He said it was hypocritical to exclude anti-illegal immigration activists from the event while allowing the Laguna Beach Peace Vigil, an antiwar group that stages weekly protests at the beach and has marched in the Patriots Day Parade for the last three years.
"The beauty of this town," Callahan said, "is that we're diverse. But they are censoring what they disagree with, which goes against what this parade is about."
Callahan scoffed as members of the antiwar group passed by carrying signs reading "Peace is Patriotic" and "May Peace Prevail on Earth."
"If you're going to tell me that's not a political group," he said, "I'll eat a bug."
Begun in 1967 by a city resident, the annual event is put on by private organizers who say their aim is to promote patriotism.
The Minuteman Project members said that, as patriots, they wanted to march in the parade. At one point, Jim Gilchrist, the organization's cofounder, threatened to have more than 1,200 people protest the event, but later changed his mind and urged members and supporters to stay away.
The controversy mattered little to Ted Taylor.
"I thought it was great," the 48-year-old Laguna Beach resident said of the parade after the last marcher of the final entry had passed. "I like the cowboys, and I always look for the bagpipes."