Gone are the days of tracking total attendance numbers by counting ticket-holders who file through the gates of the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA, for the World Pork Expo (WPX).

Starting this year, producers mostly registered in advance and gained entrance with a badge that allowed National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) sponsor of the annual event, to concentrate on tracking producer numbers.

“In the past, all we could do was count the number of tickets used at the gate, and those numbers included lots of people other than pork producers,” explains Bryan Black, NPPC president and pork producer from Canal Winchester, OH. “Now we can better understand what producers would like to see there. As the saying goes, ‘if it's about pork production, you'll find it at World Pork Expo.’”

NPPC reports that 17,756 pork producers attended the 20th anniversary of the event. That number excludes exhibitors, staff, state fair workers and others entering the grounds.

“This is a much more meaningful number for our industry than we've had in the past,” Black says. “The show has evolved over the years and, since this is the 20th anniversary, we thought it was time to bring technology into play and begin measuring the things that are most important to our producers and exhibitors.”

Attendance by international exhibitors increased. An estimated 10% of producer attendees came from about 45 foreign countries.

Next year's show is being moved forward a day to further enhance the ability to draw a professional pork producer audience, say show officials. NPPC has moved the event to a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday format for 2009. The dates are June 3, 4 and 5.

For a list of winners of the many contests, drawings and sales held at World Pork Expo, visit www.worldpork.org.