(May 5) For some produce vendors serving as unofficial hosts at United 2006 in Chicago, their city and its five-year-old terminal produce market offer a mix of past and future.

In a sense, the Chicago International Produce Market, which features amenities that planners of new markets in other cities want to duplicate, retains a little of throwback flavor, said Nick Gaglione, president of Dietz & Kolodenko Co. Inc., a Chicago wholesaler.

The 2006 event is the third in a row that the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association has co-located its convention with the Food Marketing Institute, Fancy Foods, U.S. Food Export Showcase and All Things Organic shows.

Combined, the shows feature more than 1 million square feet of exhibit space, according to United.

“It’s a busy weekend for a lot of people,” Gaglione said.

It also will be a busy time for the terminal market, said David Watson, president of Strube Celery & Vegetable Co., one of the largest wholesalers on the market.

“We’ve offered market tours to many different groups,” Watson said. “We’re expecting quite a few grower-shippers to visit us all week. We typically start seeing people trickling in here Thursday and Friday, and a lot of people will be here Monday and Tuesday, as well. In addition, the market will have a booth there.”

United 2006 is scheduled to start Saturday, May 6.

The Chicago International Produce Market, which opened in November 2001, is a point of pride for all of its vendors, Watson said.

“I think it really speaks to innovation, the stark reality of a brand new facility that has all the latest efficiencies for cooling, logistics, three-high racking systems, all these modern amenities in warehousing that were implemented into this marketplace,” he said.