Next Wednesday, grocery baggers from across the state will compete to see who’s the best in the biz. If management at The Goose is to be believed, that title may actually go to a familiar face on South Whidbey: the store’s own employee, Anthony Banks.
“From what I heard, we haven’t won in the past, so I’m looking forward to taking home the W,” Banks said. “The competition is something I never knew existed, but I’m competitive. So good luck to the other guys, but we’re gonna take this home.”
Banks, a 23-year-old from Langley, will square up against other baggers from Stevens County to Rochester, Wash. to fight for the state’s best bagger title. The competition, slated for Wednesday, Sept. 20, is an annual part of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, Wash. put on by the Washington Food Industry Association.
The first place winner will score $2,000 in cash and a paid trip to Las Vegas to compete at the national Best Bagger Championship.
Baggers compete at two levels by working with both paper and reusable bags, according to Aaron Landau, manager at The Goose. The competitors are judged by a panel on multiple points, including speed, bag-building technique, proper weight distribution, style and attitude. Bagging basics such as placing delicates at the top of the bag and packing a “nice cubed bag for presentation” factor into the final score for bag-building technique.
Landau, who says he’s gone to the competition “multiple years,” adds the panel doesn’t joke around.
“The judges are very strict,” Landau said. “They make sure they do all the small things, like making sure the bag looks nice, that liquids are facing up and that bread isn’t smushed.”
According to Jocelyn McCabe, spokesperson for the Washington Food Industry Association, baggers representing the state apparently have high standards to live up to.
“The funny thing about this is Washington has this reputation for making the podium and bringing home the hardware,” McCabe said. “Baggers from Washington have won three out of the last four national championships. No pressure.”
Landau says Banks’ has skills and a fair shot at the crown. He was “by far the strongest candidate” at the store, with his speed and apt customer service skills, Landau says.
To prepare for the competition, Banks has been practicing at home by regularly packing and unpacking his fridge. As with many Millennials, he’s also taking pointers from past competitors on YouTube.
“Just like with anything else, you’ve got to train for the competition,” Banks said with a chuckle.
Landau adds that his personality could take him to the top of the podium in the competition. Always working with a smile, Landau says his upbeat attitude and infectious positivity could win the judges over. It helped him easily win over his colleagues when the store was deciding who to send to represent The Goose.
“We spoke about who to nominate at the store and nobody wanted to compete against him because everybody knew he was number one,” Landau said. “He’s by far the quickest, he gets the least amount of complaints and everybody just loves him.”