If you didn't already know by now, those intriguing folks who've been marching around town with rings in their ears and fezzes atop their heads are Shriners.

Now please pay attention because we're going to write this only once: More than 35,000 of them are in town this week for the 88th annual convention of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of North and South America Inc.

To find out more about them just ask anyone who lives in Adams-Morgan where the Shriners, like something out of a Federico Fellini movie, suddenly descended by the hundreds Monday night in full parade regalia, strutting, drumming, scooting around in miniature cars and motorbikes and otherwise gearing up for their festive twilight parade down 18th Street NW.

On Biltmore Street, which served as a staging area for the parade, the Shriners and their grand potentates were served iced tea, soft drinks and cookies by Biltmore residents who hadn't enjoyed so much excitement since, well, a couple of weekends ago when Adams-Morgan hosted Hispanic American Week.

"Dayton. D-a-y-t-o-n. I'm a Shriner from Dayton," one potentate tried to explain to two Spanish-speaking ladies on Calvert Street, who stared in wonder at the spectacular red and yellow costume before them. "How you say Dayton in Spanish?" he finally asked an eavesdropper.

Today, starting at 11 a.m., the Shriners will again strut, drum and scoot, this time along Pennsylvania Avenue NW.