(Oct. 25) Fresh Summit 2004 was a record buster for sure.

The Produce Marketing Association’s annual trade show drew an all-time high of more than 17,300 attendees Oct. 16-19 in Anaheim, Calif.

It featured a larger floor space than previous events, with 800 exhibitors, another record.

Breakfast and lunch sessions, as well as parties, drew record numbers, with wait staff preparing more food and serving more drinks than they had expected.

Several learning sessions drew standing-room-only crowds.

And a political tone was set during the square-off between commentator and Democratic strategist James Carville and former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, which was absolutely memorable.

You were on the move, just as you thought you would be.

Yet this year’s event had you busting yourself down the aisles with an abandon heretofore unseen.

The show floor has become so expansive it is literally impossible to give attention to a majority of booths.

But that’s not such a bad thing. It’s so well-organized, with exhibitors logically arranged with regard to geographic proximity. Whether it was Texas, Chile, Guatemala, Georgia or South Korea, you could find a pavilion to suit your tastes.

And the Mexican delegation was a bit of a record buster itself, with more than 60 companies involved. The mammoth mass of firms and unique fruits shown under the auspices of MexBest was impressive indeed.

International representation was huge, with at least 25% of attendees hailing from outside the U.S. and Canada. With more than 27 nations represented, the astute learned not only of new suppliers, but also new places to supply.

The amount of retail traffic may have been more ubiquitous, but the event has become so much more than a reason to attract buyers. Most suppliers — already locked into contracts or other agreements — benefited from the back-and-forth occurring between exhibitors and attendees alike.

New ideas in packaging, co-branding and cooperation proliferated.

All the techies, and a few CEOs, did their best to get a handle on the coming wave of radio frequency identification and its implications for traceability.

Many an accord toward future growth in business was struck.

Many an old acquaintance was greeted anew.

In all, it was a good four days.