(UPDATED COVERAGE, Nov. 1) ANAHEIM, Calif. — Except those stranded by cancelled flights caused by Hurricane Sandy, a record number of attendees at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2012 went hard and went home.

With a new two-day expo format driving strong reviews, more than 21,000 attendees from 61 countries made Fresh Summit 2012 the biggest PMA show ever.

“I had feared that Sunday would be the new Monday, but I was delighted I was wrong,” said John Pandol, partner in Pandol Bros., Delano.

The Oct. 26-28 event featured 1,020 exhibitors and was attended by nearly 4,000 buyers, said Meg Miller, director of public relations for Newark, Del.-based PMA.

Storm hurries strong Fresh SummitBryan Silbermann, president and chief executive officer of PMA, said the two-day trade show received rave reviews from exhibitors and buyers. Although Hurricane Sandy may have caused some East Coast attendees to head home early, exhibitors reported strong traffic on both days of the expo.

“The change in the format really helped streamline and simplify things, with the education on Friday (Oct. 26) and the show on Saturday and Sunday,” Silbermann said. “People really seemed to like that.”

Scott Nesbit, sales manager or Wahluke Produce Inc. Mattawa, Wash., said he loved the new format.

“Monday was a waste (at previous shows),” he said.

Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash,, said “the last day of the show is still the last day of the show.”

The shorter format made it tough on some allied companies who always want to get to all the growers’ booths but ran out of time, he said.

A few exhibitors said additional business was left on the table.

“The opening day is always too packed. On the third day you could have quality time with people,” said George Wooten, president Wayne Bailey Inc., Chadbourn, N.C.

Greg Reinauer, president Tom Lange Co., Springfield, Ill., said he likes the two-day format but he does miss the opportunities the third day provided.

International traffic

Silbermann said record attendance of more than 21,000 was 10% higher than the previous record three years ago. He said the percentage of international attendance of total Fresh Summit numbers was up 1% to 2% this year, with significant numbers from Brazil, India, South Africa, China and South Korea.

“This has become a global meeting place, and it is not just people wanting to export to the United States,” Silbermann said. “It is much more an exchange of ideas and products.”

Reflecting strong global interest, Welcome Sauer, executive vice president of business development at Gebbers Farms, Brewster, Wash., said Washington apple exhibitors were up in size at Fresh Summit 2012.

“We see the apple category being a real destination for a lot of international people and domestic retailers as the worldwide apple supply has been tighter this year,” he said.

Fresh Summit 2013 will be in New Orleans, Oct. 18-20.