Price Chopper’s Ethan Dunn Captures 2019 Iowa Best Bagger Title

Photo: 2019 Iowa Best Bagger Ethan Dunn, Price Chopper, Johnston.

In a contest to find the best grocery bagger in the state, Ethan Dunn, who works at the Price Chopper store in Johnston, finished first. The Iowa Best Bagger contest was held Friday, August 9, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, where Dunn claimed the Iowa Best Bagger title, a trophy, a $500 cash prize and a trip for two to San Diego to compete in the National Best Bagger Competition that will be held on February 24, 2020 from 5-6:45 p.m. PST.

“The Iowa Best Bagger Contest spotlights talented Iowans and the grocery industry in a very positive way by promoting the ethics of hard work and community. All of the baggers did an outstanding job,” said Michelle Hurd, president of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, which hosts the event annually at the Iowa State Fair. “Once again, it was a close contest. Ethan remained calm, cool and focused under pressure.

“Grocery baggers play an important role when it comes to creating a positive shopping experience for customers.”

Placing second in the Iowa Best Bagger competition was Matthew Langel, who works at Fareway in Decorah. He received $250. Bryce Young, who works at the Fareway in Huxley, won $150 for finishing third. And, Nick Hobt, who works at the Hy-Vee in Urbandale placed fourth and took home $100.

Dunn, 20, was born in Kansas City, but grew up in Grimes, Iowa and graduated from Dallas Center Grimes High School. He currently attends Iowa State University, where he is studying journalism and US Latino/a Studies. He began working at the Price Chopper in Johnston while in high school at the age of 16.

“It was a lot of fun.” Dunn said about competing in the Iowa Best Bagger contest. “I woke up this morning and wasn’t expecting anything and now I’m headed to San Diego. I don’t know how I couldn’t be thrilled with that.”

Dunn says he has plenty of people campaigning to go with him when he heads to San Diego to represent Iowa at the 2020 National Grocers Association Best Bagger Contest. The reward for winning in San Diego includes a $10,000 prize. Once there, he will attempt to bring home a ninth national title for Iowa. Iowan Dwayne Campbell, who works for Hy-Vee, captured the 2019 National Best Bagger title earlier this year in San Diego. Iowans have a proud tradition of winning at the national contest having captured the title two years running. Iowa currently holds more national titles than any other state.

If Dunn wins the national title, he plans to use the $10,000 to offset his tuition expenses. Dunn’s future aspirations include attending law school after completing his undergraduate degree.

A total of 15 individuals from around the state qualified to take part in the 2019 Best Bagger event, which celebrated its 32nd year at the Iowa State Fair. Contestants bagged identical grocery orders consisting of approximately 35 commonly purchased items into three reusable grocery bags. They were scored and ranked primarily on weight distribution among bags, speed and proper item arrangement.

The top six finishers winnowed from three preliminary heats competed in the final round.

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

Lou Sipolt, host of the CW Iowa Live Morning Show on KCWI-23, won the celebrity bagger contest, receiving a check for $250 provided by Fareway Stores Inc. for the Iowa Wildlife Center in Ames. All other celebrities receive a $100 donation to the charity of their choice, provided by the IGIA. Our celebrity baggers included: Amber Alexander, WHO-HD Channel 13 Meteorologist competing for The ALS Association; Bree Sullivan, KCCI Channel 8 Meteorologist, competing for the Iowa Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association; Taylor Kanost, We Are Iowa Local 5 Meteorologist competing for The St. Baldrick’s Foundation; and Dwayne Campbell, the 2018 Iowa Best Bagger Winner and 2019 National Best Bagger Champion who works for Hy-Vee, competing for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). 

Companies sponsoring the 2019 Iowa Best Bagger Contest include the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, title sponsor Coca-Cola, Cylinder Express, Iowa Food and Family Project, and Frito-Lay. Prize sponsors include Hiland Dairy, Keurig Dr Pepper, Cookies Food Products and PepsiCo.

All non-perishable food items used in the competition were donated to the Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines.Left to right, front row: Ethan Dunn, Price Chopper, Johnston; Meadeau Spieker, Hy-Vee, Des Moines; Matthew Langel, Fareway, Decorah; Ben Knipp, Hy-Vee, Des Moines; and Bryce Young, Fareway, Huxley. Left to right, middle row: Nathan Maiers, Fareway, Independence; Nick Hobt, Hy-Vee, Urbandale; Tyler Mandernach, Fareway, Storm Lake; Natalie Lashbrook, Hy-Vee, West Des Moines; and Kevin Simmons, Fareway, Maquoketa. Left to right, backrow: Ben Fountain, Hy-Vee, Ankeny; Connor Stull, Fareway, Clarinda; Clayton Moffitt, Drug Town, West Des Moines; Cameron Voss, Fareway, Centerville; and Hulices Mireles, Hy-Vee, Des Moines.