To compare the Vineyard vacations of former President Clinton and current President Obama all you have to do is stop in an Island ice cream parlor. Once there, you will probably find a picture hanging on the wall of the former President eagerly peering over the counter to view the lineup of flavors, chatting with patrons or munching on an ice cream cone.

Or stop in a bakery, where it is a good bet you will find a picture of President Clinton eyeing a tray of muffins coming out of the oven; or visit one of many Island restaurants, where you will likely find a picture of him and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton standing side by side with the owners or some of the staff.

And if you looked through the Gazette archives you would find picture after picture of him glad-handing with wide-eyed admirers, shaking hands with people holding a sign wishing him a happy birthday, chatting with a nervous little girl on Main street in Vineyard Haven, wading into a crowd after shooting a round of golf at Farm Neck.

President Clinton vacationed here seven different times, and during that stretch he shook a lot of hands and ate a lot of ice cream, but also made a number of personal connections with visitors and year-rounders alike. Though it has been less than a decade since he last visited as President, a number of factors, including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of 2001 have made the world a very different place.

Even the Vineyard, which has always been slow to change, was a different place this week during President Obama’s visit. There were no walks by the First Family down Circuit avenue, no visits to the Agricultural Fair in West Tisbury, no photo opportunities at the Black Dog or Mad Martha’s.

President Obama and his family did go out this week. But when they did they were surrounded by elaborate security barricades.

Islanders took it all in stride.

“The man is on vacation. If he wants to keep to himself, let him keep to himself,” said Benjamin Philipps of Yarmouth.

“There are a lot of crazy people out there,” said Alice Clayton of Saugus. “So I don’t blame him for staying away from the crowds.”

Peter Martell, owner of the Wesley Hotel in Oak Bluffs who also was at the center of the action during the Clinton years — he rents rooms to the Secret Service — agreed there is a marked difference. “Clinton always did what he wanted. He would just cross the street or go right into a crowd. I don’t think a President can do that now,” he said.

West Tisbury police chief Beth Toomey said some things have changed since the Clintons vacationed here, while other things have stayed the same.

“I really haven’t found this time to be remarkably different. That’s really because the people haven’t changed much. They realize this guy is on vacation and they show respect . . . if he wants to go into town and meet people that’s fine, but if he wants his privacy, I think people understand that,” she said.

Security is mostly the same, she said, but she agreed that protocols are different when it comes to mingling with crowds.

“Sure, a few things are different. He’s not going down the line at the airport shaking hands, but that’s understandable. I think [the terrorists attacks] of 9/11 changed a lot of that . . . but I also think 9/11 changed a lot of things in our day-to-day lives,” the chief said.

Marc Hanover, owner of Linda Jean’s Restaurant, admits he is a tad sentimental for the simpler days when Bill and Hillary would stop in for breakfast unannounced. “He would come in and walk around the room to meet everyone. And then after that people would just leave him alone and let him eat his breakfast. It was kind of a smart tactic,” he said.

Edgartown harbor master Charlie Blair too remembers President Clinton’s spontaneous nature, which led to unscheduled visits to Island stores or to the harbor for a boat ride. He said he understands why President Obama has largely kept away from the public this year. “You have to remember the Secret Service are trying to do their job. If the President wants to keep breaking away from the itinerary and go and walk around, that makes their jobs that much tougher. President Obama seems like the kind of guy who sticks to the plan more, and I like that,” he said.

Peter Mayer, the longtime White House correspondent for CBS news, has covered six different Presidents while they vacationed, and can remember all the way back when President Carter would spend his vacations in his hometown of Plains, Ga., where he would often visit his cousin Hugh Carter’s antique shed and worm farm.

Mr. Mayer said President Reagan was probably the most reclusive of Commanders in Chief when he vacationed at his beloved Rancho del Cielo near Santa Barbara, Calif., often disappearing for days before appearing for a press conference or on horseback.

President George H.W. Bush would meet the press almost every day when he vacationed at his family’s compound in Kennebunkport, Me., he said., although his son George W. Bush would generally shirk the press when vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Tex. “The father and son couldn’t have been more different in that respect,” he said.

And the seasoned correspondent said the different feel between the Clinton and Obama Vineyard vacations may have less to do with heightened security and more to do with the President’s desire for family privacy.

“[President] Obama has always been concerned about the treatment of his two daughters; he has tried to keep them away from all the news crews and paparazzi. I think he is a family-oriented man who jealously guards the privacy of his wife and kids,” Mr. Mayer said.