Grocery store baggers from along the Wasatch Front vied for cash prizes and trophies Tuesday at the Salt Palace during the first Utah Best Bagger Contest.

Sponsored by Placo Inc., the event was part of the two-day Utah Retail Grocers Association Convention and Trade Show in the Salt Palace.The top three prize winners from among 42 contestants, all winners at their stores, were Jared Kelm, 17, Salt Lake City, a bagger at Harmon's in Bennion, who earned $300, a trophy and a free trip to Las Vegas for a national bagging contest Jan. 30 to Feb. 2; Kevin Brady, 17, Sandy, a bagger at a Ream's Food Store in Sandy, who won $200 and a trophy; and Tonia Wright, 18, Roy, a bagger at Harmon's in Roy, who won $100 and a trophy.

Others among the top 10 finalists and the stores they represented were Nick Campos, 18, Salt Lake City, Smith's Food & Drug; Paul Harding, 17, Salt Lake City, Smith's; Kristopher C. Foltz, 17, Murray, Smith's; Joe Lowe, 18, Provo, Smith's; Brandon Bagley, 17, Logan, Smith's; Patrick Ward, 18, Sandy, Ream's; and Lynn Eggli, 20, Salt Lake City, Dan's Foods Inc.

Contest director Nora Briggs, special events manager for the National Grocers Association, Reston, Va., said each contestant had to bag the same number and kinds of items. Some baggers used two paper bags, some used three. The groceries weighed a total of 36 pounds and were set out on checkout counters placed in the contest arena.

The fastest time recorded for bagging the groceries was 60.5 seconds, but time was not the only criterion. Briggs said baggers were also judged on item arrangement - bags were cut open after each contestant finished to see how they had placed each item, weight distribution, style and attitude.

Winner Kelm, a senior at Taylorsville High School, said he has been a bagger for the past 15 months and works about 20 to 30 hours a week at his local Harmon's store.

He said he enjoys working, likes the money he earns and plans to go to college after he finishes high school. His parents, Wolfgang and Aline Kelm, who were in his cheering section at the Salt Palace contest, said their son is a good student and a computer whiz.

"Working is good for him," his mother said, smiling.

Kelm's advice to other baggers, whether competing or just loading up groceries for a customer: "Don't break the eggs."