GREENVILLE – Grumpy’s BBQ will not be returning to the Great Darke County Fair next year.
Mike Wagner, owner of the concession stand, said he will be leaving the area after Thanksgiving and moving to Florida as his wife, Sue Ellen, is having health issues.
“She is disabled and was recently diagnosed with congestive heart disease and has trouble walking,” he said. “We made the decision last month to move to Florida. If my business doesn’t sell we’ll take it Florida.”
He said the barbecue business started as a hobby in Franklin where they lived before moving to Darke County and the Greenville area 13 years ago.
“We took it to the River Days Festival in Franklin with pork chops, then pulled pork and beef brisket,” he said. “And, it grew from there.”
He has taken his concession stand to other festivals and used to do a lot of catering, but not so much anymore.
He said he moved to this area because he wanted to get into the Darke County Fair after the Preble County Fair and it mushroomed into this. He has also been taking the concession to Stateline Heritage Days in Union City.
Wagner, whose family is from the Dayton area, said his next stop will be the Highland County Fair. His stops have also included the Shelby and Miami County fairs.
Helping him in the concession stand are Mary Kreitzer and several others on a part-time basis.
How did he get his nickname? My mom, who is still alive, said I was a sweet young child, but after I got out of the Marines and back from Vietnam, said I had been grumpy.”
He served with the U.S. Marine Corps from 1967 to late 1970.
Wagner, who had worked out of the Carlisle Police Department, had been an over-the-road truck driver for many years, owning his own truck and hauling steel and machinery.
His culinary skills, he said, came from both of his grandmothers and his mother.
“I paid attention,” he said. “After school, I fixed my sister something to eat. Mom didn’t like the mess I left in the kitchen. I do what I do best.”
With two sons, three grandchildren and one great-grandson, he said he is focusing his future on his wife’s health. He wants to take care of her.
When he started at the Darke County Fair he was located across the way from his present location underneath a tent. After, he got his concession stand he moved to where he is now.
Where does he choose to eat at the fair when he’s not eating his own food, he enjoys Michael’s Catering’s fried chicken and Taco Dave’s. His favorite food, he said is “every once in a while a good steak.” And, according to him, McGuire’s in Florida is the best steak place in the world.
“I love this fair,” he said. “It’s a great fair and that’s why it’s known as the Great Darke County Fair.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Mike Wagner is spending his last year with his concession stand at the Great Darke County Fair. He will be moving with his wife to Florida as she has health issues. (Photo by Linda Moody)