Hy-Vee’s James Armstrong Wins Iowa’s Best Bagger Title

James Armstrong, who works at Hy-Vee at the Prairie Trail store in Ankeny, Iowa, took first place and $500 in the 2016 Iowa Best Bagger Competition on Friday, August 12 at the Iowa State Fair. Armstrong also receives a trip to Las Vegas in February to represent Iowa in the national bagger contest. Trevor DeForest, who works at the Fareway Store in Maquoketa, took second place and $250. Cory Vogel, who works at the Fareway in Clarinda, won $150 for finishing third and Trevor Erb of the Polk City Fareway, placed fourth and took home $100.

Left to right, front row: Em Hutchison, Hy-Vee, West Des Moines (Valley West Drive); Haile Cook, Fareway, Cedar Rapids; Moises DeLaCruz and Justin Nera, Hy-Vee, Storm Lake; Jordyn Kleinheksel, Hy-Vee, Waterloo; middle row: James Armstrong, Hy-Vee, Ankeny (Prairie Trail); Cory Vogel, Fareway, Clarinda; Trevor DeForest, Fareway, Maquoketa; Joe Tomlin, Cash Saver, Des Moines (Fleur Drive); Mikasia Jacobsen and Amy Bradley, West Street Market, Manning; back row: Kevin Kiesel and Sean Fitzsimmons, Fareway, Boone; Trevor Erb, Fareway, Polk City; Ben O’Neal, Fareway, Boone; Melissa Box, Hy-Vee, Windsor Heights; and Elizabeth Rucker, Hy-Vee, Johnston.

Armstrong finishes first at the Iowa Grocery Industry Association’s 29th annual grocery bagging competition

DES MOINES, Iowa – In a contest to find the best grocery bagger in the state, James Armstrong, who works for the Prairie Trail Hy-Vee in Ankeny, came out on top in the Iowa Best Bagger contest on Friday, August 12, at the Iowa State Fair. Armstrong claimed the Iowa’s Best Bagger title, a trophy, a $500 cash prize and a trip for two to Las Vegas to compete in the National Best Bagger Contest.

“All of the finalists were fast, but what clinched the competition again this year was the weight distribution among the grocery bags,” said Michelle Hurd, president of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, which hosts the event annually at the Iowa State Fair. “James’ three bags were nearly equal in weight.”

Placing second in the Iowa Best Bagger competition was Trevor DeForest, who works at the Fareway in Maquoketa, Iowa, and received $250. Cory Vogel, who works at Fareway in Clarinda, Iowa, placed third and received $150. Trevor Erb, who works at Fareway in Polk City, Iowa, finished in fourth place and received $100.

Armstrong, 26, who grew up and currently lives in Grimes, Iowa, will go on to represent Iowa at the 2016 National Grocers Association Best Bagger Contest in Las Vegas in February, and has a chance to win an additional $10,000. Armstrong, who graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor’s degree in business management will attempt to bring home a seventh national title for Iowa and the first since 2000.

“I’m still in shock,” Armstrong said about winning. “I’m excited to be going to Vegas. It feels great to be representing Hy-Vee at the national contest.”

Armstrong will be making the trip to Las Vegas with his brother and best friend, Patrick, and says he’s not planning to do anything special to train, “I’ll just do my job bagging groceries every day to the best of my ability.”

Before making it to the Iowa Best Bagger competition, Armstrong competed against 40 other Hy-Vee baggers in Hy-Vee’s internal qualifying competition. The top seven finishers qualified to compete for Hy-Vee at the State Fair.

James started working for Hy-Vee in Iowa City at the age of 21 as a cashier. Currently he has close to five years of bagging experience and works as a manager of store operations at the Ankeny store, where his duties still include bagging groceries most days. Before Hy-Vee, he worked at Rainbow Playground Systems of Iowa as an installer.

A total of 17 individuals took part in the 2016 Best Bagger event, which celebrated its 29th year at the Iowa State Fair. Contestants bagged identical grocery orders consisting of approximately 40 commonly purchased items into three reusable grocery bags. They were scored and ranked primarily on speed and weight distribution among bags, but proper item arrangement is also taken into account.

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.

Eddie Hatfield, of the Hatfield & McCoy Morning Show (92.5 Nash ICON) emerged victorious from the Celebrity Bagger Contest winning the traveling trophy and $250 for the charity of his choice, which is sponsored by Fareway Stores Inc. Hatfield defeated challengers Colleen Kelly | Ken, Colleen and Kurt in the Morning (Star 102.5); Jackie Schmillen | CW Iowa Live Morning Show on KCWI-23; Ellen Schlarmann, 2015 Iowa State Fair Queen and Dallas Lehman, the 2015 Iowa Best Bagger Winner, Hy-Vee, Mason City.

Companies sponsoring the 2016 Iowa Best Bagger Contest include the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, Coca-Cola, Cylinder Express and Kellogg Company. Prize sponsors include Hiland Dairy, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Cookies Food Products and PepsiCo. Fareway Stores Inc. will provide the celebrity charity donation.

All non-perishable food items used in the competition were donated to the Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines.

See Event Photos.