MEXICO CITY (AP) - About 200 clowns paraded through the streets of Mexico City on Wednesday in a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, an annual rite to offer thanks for the Virgin's help and protection throughout the year.

More than 600 other pilgrimage marches crowded the streets around the Basilica on Tuesday, the Virgin's official holiday, so the clowns waited until Wednesday to offer their own, unusual march.

Pedaling tiny bicycles, turning somersaults and waving wooden clapboard noisemakers, the contingent made its way down the four-kilometre boulevard that leads from downtown Mexico City.

Wearing their red plastic noses, striped shirts, outsized shoes and bald wigs with pride, the clowns sang a song in honour of "La Guadalupana," as the Virgin is known, as they marched.

Even though he goes by the stage name "Mentiritas" - "Little Lies" in Spanish - clown leader Guillermo Garcia was full of sincerity by the time the pilgrimage reached the Basilica.

"We came here to give thanks to the Virgin for all the work we have had this year, and for keeping our families well," Garcia said.

Copyright 2006 Canadian Press