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All's fair? Democrat and Republican booths side-by-side at Washington County Fair

Martial arts studio placed between liberal and conservative political booths at county fair.

PMG PHOTO: RYAN LACKEY - The Washington County Fair has an ironic booth lineup this year. Democrats on the left, republicans on the right, and a martial arts gym in between to keep the two parties in check.The large cows and the penned-in chickens weren't the ones who felt caught in the middle at the Washington County Fair on Friday.

On Friday, Marie Gilson sat sandwiched between the Republican Party on her right, and the Democrats on her left. Her booth, promoting martial arts studio Krav Maga Global NorthWest, in Beaverton, was an ironic reminder of the fight the two political parties are waging in the already heated presidential election.

To make matters worse, Gilson is a registered independent.

“They haven't had to use our boxing gloves yet,” Gilson joked. “We're actually having a blast. It's been so much fun hearing the comments from Democrats who say they can't vote for Hillary (Clinton), or Republicans who say, 'We're doomed.'”

Over at the Republican booth, volunteer Tracy Honl said the humor of the situation struck her straightaway when the booths went up before the fair.

“It's definitely ironic for me,” she said. I get a little kick out of it. A couple people walking by have pointed it out and laughed.”

The volunteers were out working for more than just laughs, though. Honl, a dedicated Republican who attended the Republican National Convention last week in Ohio as a delegate for candidate Donald Trump, said the real goal is outreach, and mobilizing voters.

“It's time to balance out the power!” Honl said. “And it's good to get out here, smile, meet the neighbors.”

Apparently those neighbors didn't include her Democratic counterparts two doors down. Honl said that the two parties' booths and volunteers really don't interact much at the fair, and don't cooperate on voting awareness.

PMG PHOTO: RYAN LACKEY - Democrat Sorah Dubitsky hugs a Republican during the Washington County Fair on Friday.But Sorah Dubitsky, a volunteer at the Democratic booth, figured she'd change that.

“I should go give them a hug,” Dubitsky said when asked about the parties' lack of interaction. “Democrats give hugs.”

Dubitsky promptly walked over and hugged a momentarily surprised Republican volunteer.

“There's no contention between us, the two parties,” said Democratic staffer Kathy Wnorowski. “Did they put the (martial arts) booth between us in case there's a fistfight?” she joked.

Indeed, even amidst a vitriolic presidential campaign, both sides noted that the conversations and responses from fairgoers have been almost entirely positive.

Wnorowski said she couldn't recall a single negative comment, and Honl said there'd only been one or two.

“There's been some passionate people,” Honl said, “and we've gotten some comments on Trump. But everyone's been friendly.”

“We're not a contentious party,” added Dubitsky, the democrat. “We're the party of inclusion.”

According to Gilson and her independent viewpoint, though, the parties still have a long way to go. The emotional, polarizing political atmosphere, she said, is turning many people off from being politically active at all.

“I've probably heard 35-40 percent of people saying they don't even want to vote,” Gilson said. “I believe we have a duty to vote, and I can remember when we worked together. If the public gets so riled up we can bring the parties back together again, bring the best of their values for the good of the American people.”

Gilson even slipped a few workout jokes into her plea for cooperation.

“Haven't we had enough bashing?” said Gilson, standing in her martial arts booth. “In krav maga, we teach people how to fight fair and only in self-defense. I think both parties should remember that.”

The Washington County Fair runs through Sunday, July 31.