SALT LAKE CITY — Saying that Brennan Creed has a pretty full plate this week is like saying a tax accountant is sorta busy the week of April 15.

Brennan is an event manager at the Salt Palace Convention Center. He’s the point person for groups that rent space to hold their conventions, rallies, shows, banquets and get-togethers. Some are modest affairs that might involve a dozen people and one room.

Then there’s the one this week: the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

It would easily rank as the largest convention held in Utah if not for the slightly larger Outdoor Retailer Summer Market held every August, which Brennan also manages.

But the January show seems bigger because, well, it’s winter and everyone tends to stay inside.

Just how big is it? The Salt Palace is 679,000 square feet of convention floor space. That’s practically an entire city block. You could fit 10 Hearst Castles inside. And it’s still not enough.

The OR, aka the world’s largest sporting goods store, takes over every nook and cranny and looks for more. Even some places normally used for storage are cleared out, just to make extra room so the show’s participants can display every kind of outdoor gear you can think of — and a lot more you haven't thought of, but will very likely be wearing, sleeping in or riding on in the not-so-distant future.

More than 20,000 people, exhibitors, buyers and representatives attend each day of the show — beginning Wednesday and running through Saturday. For four days the Salt Palace is like Manhattan, only more crowded.

As the designated liaison to all of this, Brennan is on call 24-7.

So why is this man smiling?

“Because I love this show and the people who run it,” he said while taking a break during setup last week. “And personally, I love to ski, hike and camp. Everything they’re showing, I’m into that stuff.

“It’s my favorite show of the year. To me, it’s so much more interesting than a show with an acronym that I know nothing about that comes here once. These are people who come to Utah twice a year. They’ve gotten to know us and we’ve gotten to know them. They’re so enthusiastic and passionate about what they’re doing. They’re the best-looking people we get here by far, walking around in the latest, greatest gear. Nobody wears a suit and tie. What they’re selling is fun. They’re in the business of fun. When they show up it’s like a big party, a social event.”

He’ll hear the word “dude” more in one week, he says, than the rest of the year combined.

When he has the time — like, say, 2 in the morning after repairing a leaking pipe — Brennan said he likes to walk the aisles and check out the gear himself.

“I can wander for hours and still not feel like I’ve taken in the whole show.”

This is his sixth show — summer and winter — and he says what amazes him is how the gear keeps getting lighter and lighter.

“Last year at one of the booths,” he recalls, “one helium balloon was holding up a ski parka.”

Despite its size, in some respects the OR show is easier on a project manager. The show production team is in the building twice a year, so they know where everything is located, and they essentially take over the premises.

“Other shows require more setup,” he says. “We might need to set up a small meeting for them here and there, but they have a company that comes in and designs the show and handles most everything. All of the tables, chairs, etc., are stored off-site. Aside from the occasional last-minute request for meeting supplies, the Salt Palace crew mainly works as a support team to the OR show production team, and they are as good as it gets.”

Still, no matter how buttoned down the show, the definition of a project manager’s job is to expect the unexpected.

There was the time a couple of shows ago when exhibitors brought a genuine, live alpaca from the Andes into their booth. They were showing off the factory, so to speak.

One afternoon Brennan’s walkie-talkie sprang to life:

“The alpaca just went to the bathroom in the south hall. Can you have somebody pick that up?”

“That’s a call I’d never heard before,” he confirms.

So what did he do? Got it picked up, of course. And right away. The bigger the show, the less room for error.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. Email: benson@deseretnews.com