We ain't just clowning around: Serious business underway at International Clown Convention

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The clowns competed in best makeup, improvisation, best group show, juggling and, of course, best balloon shaping contests

More than 500 clowns have gathered in Mexico to take part in activities marking the 17th International Clown Convention.

Colourful wigs, large shoes, red noses and doubtless a fine collection of squirty plastic flowers were on show at the first day of the convention at a theatre in Mexico City.

On arrival, and in order to register for the conference, clowns were asked to raise their "official clown rulebook", without which they wouldn't be able to register.

According to Associated Press some clowns could only raise an imaginary rulebook 'while making a sad face.'

During the four-day event, the clowns competed in best makeup, improvisation, best group show, juggling and, of course, best balloon shaping. The event's main sponsor was a balloon manufacturer.

On a more serious note the clowns sought to distance themselves from the recent killing of convicted drug trafficker Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, who was shot to death on Friday at the Baja beach resort of Los Cabos by a gunman wearing a clown costume.

Clown leader Tomas Morales, a 21-year veteran of the trade who goes by the stage name "Payaso Llantom," said he was certain the killer was not a professional clown.

He said clowns in Mexico, especially in outlying states, know each other and their costumes and makeup are individualized and recognizable. 

"The people who do that, they're not clowns. I can swear on my mother's grave it wasn't a clown," said Morales, whose costume includes frizzy blue hair and a tiny top hat. "We are not like that ... we are nonviolent." 

"Bufon Marley," the stage name of 49-year-old Alberto Villanueva, who dresses a bit like a medieval jester, said of the killer, "It's sad that it has fallen to that level." 

"I don't think it has anything to do with us; we do the complete opposite," Villanueva said. "I don't think it will hurt our profession, because in our communities, people know us." 

Morales said there have been past cases of thieves stealing clown costumes to commit crimes. 

"We clowns suffer robberies," Morales said. "The criminals have stolen our vehicles, our costumes, our sound equipment, our makeup, and with these same tools we use to work, they use them to commit robberies."

In the UK a sinister-looking clown recently made the headlines after standing on street corners around Northampton.

The mysterious character was seen around Northampton, waving at passers-by. Photos of him have been posted online, turning him into something of an internet sensation.

He was recently unmasked by a British tabloid and named as Northampton University ­student and budding film maker Alex Powell, 22.

Additional reporting by Associated Press.

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