When The Times-Gazette spoke with Michael Wagner at the Highland County Fair on Tuesday, he didn’t seem grumpy – but he said he sure can be.
Wagner, a Greenville resident with Highland County roots, said this will be the last year he’ll be serving up Grumpy’s BBQ at the fair.
Wagner said his wife is in poor health and doesn’t do too well with Ohio winters, so they’re moving to Florida in the next few months for warmer weather. There, they’ll live about 25 minutes away from their son, who retired from the United States Air Force a number of years ago, Wagner said.
Wagner started serving barbecue at county fairs about 30 years ago using a small Southern Pride smoker, some used barbecue equipment and a tent. Over the years, his barbecue became a fan favorite at many county fairs throughout the region, he said.
Wagner said the pulled pork he serves is the best item on the menu, and the most popular.
Although he was born in Dayton and currently lives in Greenville, Wagner said he has family in Highland County, and has always loved coming here.
“Most people around here know me as ‘Grumpy,’” he said. “I’ve seen Hillsboro grow over the years… It was always a treat coming to the Highland County Fair as a kid.”
Wagner recalled waiting out the remnants of a tropical storm here a number of years ago, and said the whole fairground turned into a mudpit after the storm rolled through – but that didn’t stop people from enjoying the fair.
“Oh, but it was a mess,” he said.
Wagner said he plans to sell the business, adding that he’ll miss his lifestyle here, but his family’s welfare is more important.
“My wife’s health is more important to me than anything,” he said. “This fair has been good to me… We have a lot of ties here. There’s good people here, that’s for sure.”
Grumpy’s BBQ will be at the fair for the rest of the week.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.