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OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Megan Rodenhauser thought working at her local supermarket would be a good way to earn money for college.
She didn't realize it could make her a local celebrity.
But in a competition at this month's Ohio State Fair, Miss Rodenhauser, 17, bested dozens of other grocery workers to win honors as Ohio's best bagger.
“Everybody asks me about it,” she said yesterday after finishing her shift at the IGA Community Market. “They're all really excited.”
By besting 25 other contestants Aug. 5, the Oak Harbor High School graduate won $1,000 and a trip to Las Vegas to compete in a national competition Feb. 9-12, 2004.
Miss Rodenhauser, who has worked at the grocery store since January, 2002, said she had plenty of practice filling paper and plastic bags with food, toiletries, and cleansers.
“Once you know how to do it, you don't forget,” she said.
Miss Rodenhauser advanced to the state event, sponsored by the Ohio Grocers Association, by winning a contest held by Fresh Encounter, Inc., a Findlay-based supermarket chain that owns the Oak Harbor store and 30 others in Ohio and Indiana.
She and other competitors at the state fair bagged the same 27 items in two heats - one with two paper bags, the other with three plastic bags. Each entrant was judged on speed, bag-building technique, weight distribution of the bags, and style, attitude, and appearance.
What separates good bagging from bad?
“One of the main things is weight distribution,” Miss Rodenhauser said. “All of the bags are supposed to weigh the same. And you can't have glass jars on the outside of paper bags. You can't put stuff on top of the eggs.”
Some other rules: Cleaning supplies must never be put in a bag with perishable items, such as bananas and milk. Meat can only be bagged with other meat. And cold items, like ice cream, cottage cheese, and TV dinners, go together.
Miss Rodenhauser said baggers sometimes make the mistake of stuffing a plastic bag like its larger paper counterpart.
“You definitely can't fit as much in a plastic bag as a paper bag,” she said.
Miss Rodenhauser, who worked her way up from bagger to head carryout person at the store, was an obvious choice to enter in the Fresh Encounter contest, said Emily Walter, a manager trainee at the Oak Harbor store.
“Megan's been a star since she's been here,” Ms. Walter said. “She's great with customer service and always willing to help others. She's the kind of person any store would want. We would do anything for Megan, so this is a great opportunity for her to promote herself and our company.”
Miss Rodenhauser said she'll use her contest winnings to help pay expenses during her freshman year at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, where she'll begin classes Aug. 25.41.50821 -83.14501