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Top Grocery Sackers Will Compete For Iowa ‘Best Bagger’ Title Friday

While many things change in the grocery industry from year to year, one item remains constant: a store’s appreciation for its customers and its most symbolic gesture of that sentiment—bagging their groceries.

The annual Iowa Best Bagger Contest, hosted by the Iowa Grocery Industry Association (IGIA), is a tribute to this gratitude. Each year, approximately 300 to 400 people gather to view the competition and cheer on their local grocers. The competition represents the best sackers in Iowa, giving them the chance to exhibit their skills against one another.

“Iowa’s Best Bagger contest is one of the most popular, free events at the State Fair,” says IGIA President Michelle Hurd. “Most of the contestants make bagging groceries an art form. It’s an amazing thing to watch and always electrifies the crowd.”

The 2014 Iowa Best Bagger Contest will be held Friday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. The competition will begin a 1 p.m. on the stage of the Susan Knapp Amphitheater, located on Grand Ave., east of the grandstand and midway just past the Animal Learning Center on the north side of the street.

The 2014 Best Bagger Contestants are:

  • Timothy Barton, Fareway, Fort Dodge
  • Andrew Beier, Hy-Vee, Ankeny
  • Andrew Buckley, Hy-Vee, West Des Moines
  • Robert Dentlinger, Hy-Vee, Boone
  • Michaeljohn Gray, Hy-Vee, Cedar Rapids
  • Chris Kirsch, Fareway, Storm Lake
  • Dallas Lehman, Hy-Vee, Johnston
  • Tim Mannan, Hy-Vee, Windsor Heights
  • Maddie McCormick, Fareway, Clive
  • Jake McLaughlin, Fareway, Nevada
  • Tyler Miller, Hy-Vee, West Des Moines
  • David Nelson, Fareway, Cedar Falls
Benjamin O’Neal, Fareway, Boone
Alex Palmer, Scott’s Foods, Norwalk
  • Oscar Rivas, Fareway, Boone
  • Bethany Rospand, Hy-Vee, West Des Moines
  • Jenni Stoberl, West Street Market, Manning
  • Billy Walsh, Fareway, Burlington

This year’s competition will spotlight these 18 contestants in three preliminary heats and a championship round consisting of two heats, one with plastic and one with reusables. The four baggers who score the most points in the preliminary heats will compete in the final.

Contestants will bag identical grocery orders consisting of no more than 40 commonly purchased items. They will be ranked primarily on speed and weight distribution between bags, but individual style and proper item arrangement also will be scored.

Cash prizes will be awarded to the top four finishers. The overall champion also earns a trip for two to the National Best Bagger Competition in Las Vegas, which holds a grand prize of $10,000.

“Iowans have always done well at the national competition, winning six national Best Bagger titles,” Hurd says. “We are hoping this year’s state winner will capture a seventh.”

While the judges are tallying the overall scores of the championship round, fans will be treated to the Celebrity Best Bagger Competition. Evaluated strictly on speed and who can have the most fun, the winner of the celebrity contest will earn a traveling trophy to display for one year as well as $250, sponsored by Fareway Stores Inc., to donate to a charity of his or her choice. Challenging for the celebrity trophy are: Jackie Schmillen, host of the Great Day Morning Show on KCWI-23; Eddie Hatfield, morning radio show host on KJJY 92.5; and Dave Zawilinski, ABC 5 sports director. The three will be joined by 2013 Iowa Best Bagger Champion Matthew Munstermann (Hy-Vee, Altoona.)

Members of the crowd have a chance to win one of several gift cards for answering grocery industry trivia questions.

Companies sponsoring the 2014 Iowa Best Bagger Contest include the IGIA, Coca-Cola and Hilex Poly. Prize sponsors include Hiland Dairy, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Cookies Food Products and Pepsi. All non-perishable food items used in the competition will also be donated to the Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines.

For more information, visit iowagrocers.com.

National Best Bagger Champions from Iowa

  • 2000: Mike Mechura (Fareway Stores – Boone, Iowa)
  • 1997: Allen Weimerskirch (Fareway Stores – Creston, Iowa)
  • 1996: Mike Dahm (Fareway Stores – New Hampton, Iowa)
  • 1994: Jeff Stearns (Fareway Stores – Boone, Iowa)
  • 1987: Paul Heffernan (Fareway Stores – Manchester, Iowa)
  • 1986: Paul Heffernan (Fareway Stores – Manchester, Iowa)

Iowa Best Bagger Champions (Since 1995)

  • 2013: Matthew Munstermann (Hy-Vee, Altoona)
  • 2012: Tim Hannan (Fareway Stores, Des Moines)
  • 2011: Jacob Laursen (Fareway Stores, Cresco, Iowa)
  • 2010: Jeremy Mescher (Fareway Stores – Sheldon, Iowa)
  • 2009: David Kistenmacher (Fareway Stores – Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
  • 2008: Brian Beneke (Fareway Stores – Cresco, Iowa)
  • 2007: Aric Reicks (Fareway Stores – Sioux City, Iowa)
  • 2006: Brenda Wygle (Fareway Stores – New Hampton, Iowa)
  • 2005: Dan Klinkenberg (Fareway Stores – Eagle Grove, Iowa)
  • 2004: Tony Haisman (Fareway Stores – Waterloo, Iowa)
  • 2003: Kevin McCormick (Fareway Stores – Ottumwa, Iowa)
  • 2002: Jim Westphalen (Fareway Stores – Clinton, Iowa)
  • 2001: Jeff Kessler (Hy-Vee – Iowa City, Iowa)
  • 2000: Keith Voss (Fareway Stores – Vinton, Iowa)
  • 1999: Mike Mechura (Fareway Stores – Boone, Iowa)
  • 1998: Steve Tielbur (Fareway Stores – Boone, Iowa)
  • 1997: Roger Wirtz (Fareway Stores – Cherokee, Iowa)
  • 1996: Allen Weimerskirch (Fareway Stores – Creston, Iowa)
  • 1995: Mike Dahm (Fareway Stores – New Hampton, Iowa)

In the feature photo at top are last year’s Iowa Best Bagger award winners, from left, Cory Vogel, Fareway, 4th place; Erik Banning, Hy-Vee, 3rd place; Matthew Munstermann, Hy-Vee, 1st place; and David Nelson, Fareway, 2nd place; with Paris Schnepf, 2011 State Fair Queen.

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