But for those who make the trip, the payoff is delicious. Attendees are able to meet seen-on-TV chefs, have them sign cookbooks, ask them which type of tofu is best.
"We've been talking about doing this for years," said Mary Ann Jasker-Thompson of Seattle. She said she and her husband both enjoy cooking and are looking for ideas they can take home.
On their to-do list, a class on Indian curry by Madhur Jaffrey, grilling by chef Bobby Flay and seminars on Australian and New Zealand wines.
In between high-energy cooking demonstrations and more subdued wine classes and reserve tastings, are "Grand Tastings" where about 300 vintners pour seemingly endless samples of their wines for consumers.
Tucked in between the tables of wine, bread and cheese (to clear the palate) are plenty of chances to fill up on foods from exhibitors promoting their gourmet goods. A walk through the tasting tents offers nibbles of lemongrass soup, smoked salmon, ginger ice cream with almonds and lemon cheesecake laced with rum.
Holly Myers of Vowie, Maryland is attending the festival for a third year. Her husband Jeff has been twice. "I enjoy the cooking more whereas he enjoys the wine," she says
Food & Wine's one-after-another schedule of classes and tastings is not exactly relaxing," she says. "Sometimes you almost feel so tired it feels like work, but it really ends up being enjoyable. In years past, at the end of the day, we just collapse."