(May 13) FMI, thank you very much. No, United, thank you.

The numbers are in, and it seems the decision by the Food Marketing Institute and the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, both of Washington, D.C., to merge their annual shows this year was a good one.

Combined attendance for the two shows was, by one count, an estimated 24,000, up from last year’s total of 22,000. United officials were happy not only with what FMI was able to do for United, but with what United was able to do for FMI. More retailers on the two show floors was good news for both associations.

“We’re gratified that the addition of United had such a strong effect on FMI’s own retail members turning out, including a large number of retail and wholesale produce executives,” said Amy Philpott, United’s vice president of marketing and industry relations.

United’s preregistrations jumped from 2,600 in 2003 to about 4,000 this year, Philpott said.

Because United and FMI preregistered jointly this year, that number is inexact. It was arrived at by consulting demographic information entered on the preregistration forms.

About 15,000 people preregistered for FMI 2004. Adding 5,000 onsite registrations brings the total to 20,000, up from 19,400 the year before, said Todd Holtquist, the association’s senior manager for media relations.

Some of those 5,000, however, may have attended United or one of the other three shows sharing the stage — All Things Organic, the Fancy Food Show or the 2004 U.S. Food Export Showcase — and skipped FMI.

About 8,000 people preregistered for the Fancy Foods Show and 2,000 for All Things Organic, pushing the total number of conventioneers in McCormick Place May 2-4 to around 34,000.