If rodents are seen running around an Evans pet store Saturday and children and adults are heard screaming, don't be alarmed.
The screams are probably packs of rabid fans rooting their favorite hamster on to victory in the area's first Petco Hamster Ball Derby.
Joining participating stores nationwide, the Petco store on Washington Road in the Mullins Crossing shopping center will hold the rodent grand prix beginning at 2 p.m.
"This is the real deal. It's about bragging rights," Petco spokesman Don Cowan said in a telephone interview.
When the company started the Hamster Ball Derbies in southern California earlier this year, he said it immediately brought out the competitive streaks in hamster owners.
"The competition is just fun to watch," he said. "These youngsters ... even some adults encourage their hamsters (to win)."
Hamsters will man the controls of clear plastic hamster balls and race each other down an eight-foot track in heats of up to four.
Ultimately, a champion and up to three placing racers will be crowned and awarded prizes.
Anyone with a hamster and hamster ball is eligible to enter, with practice rounds beginning at 1:30 p.m. and heats starting at 2 p.m.
Molly Andreou, a store team leader, said the derby is open to spectators and people can sign up their pets in the store, or by phone before the race at (706) 869-0737.
Cowan said the fun of the derby lies in the unpredictably of the rodents once the pressure is on.
"Part of the fun of this is you just don't know what they're going to do," he said.
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