It’s like ‘playing Tetris.’ State grocery bagging competitors meet in Tacoma

The 2019 Washington State Best Bagger title was held Tuesday at the Historic 1625 Tacoma Place event space in Tacoma.

Last year’s winner and repeat competitor this year, Henry Johnson of Yoke’s Fresh Market in Spokane, offered some insight on how he and the competitors stay focused:

“Go for the biggest items first and split them up in each of the bags to get on top of the weight distribution aspect right away. Stay smooth and relaxed instead of tense, and just try your best to think soundly during the minute that you’re bagging up there, then just hope for the best!”

Julie Weisgerber of Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia and Lisa Johnson of Fred Meyer at 19th and Stevens streets in Tacoma were among the nine competitors, along with Stephen Gonzales of Enumclaw’s QFC.

Weisgerber compared it to playing Tetris.

“I don’t really practice specifically for the contest. We’re a neighborhood store where many of our customers walk to and from. Playing Tetris with food is what I do all day, and I enjoy the challenge,” she said.

“To me, there’s not a lot I can do to practice ahead of time. The groceries aren’t on a conveyor belt, so it’s rather unrealistic. It’s all about fun. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have competed in the first place.”

In the end Henry Johnson won again, and a cash prize of $2,000 and the chance to compete at the national championship in February in San Diego.

Lisa Johnson placed second, and Cole Crofton of Rosauers Supermarket, Yakima placed third.

The competition, sponsored by the Washington Food Industry Association Educational Foundation, was open to all grocers statewide. The winner, not announced by Tuesday afternoon, gets a $2,000 cash prize and a chance to compete at the national championship in San Diego in February.

Washington has claimed the national title four times: 2016, 2015, 2013 and 1989. Baggers are judged on speed, bag building technique, distribution of weight between bags, and style, attitude and appearance, according to WFIA.