Speedway’s ‘Voice of Lewis County’ to be ‘sorely missed’

John W. Burr, 79, cut the ribbon launching the 2019 Lewis County Fair in July as his last official act after half of a century of announcing and organizing for fairs and speedways around northern and central New York state. Mr. Burr died on Aug. 23. Daytona Niles/Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — With flags waving at half-staff, a rare moment of silence could be heard at the Adirondack Speedway on Saturday, honoring the last lap of “the voice of Lewis County,” John W. Burr, who died on Friday.

For decades, Mr. Burr, 79, was the iconic voice at race tracks around northern and central New York, including the Adirondack, Can-Am, and Evans Mills, as well as everything from the parade to advertisements and the demolition derby at the Lewis County and other fairs around the state.

“Who’s it gonna be?” Mr. Burr was known for saying during a tight race, said Frank Nortz, Adirondack Speedway manager, “Adirondack, who’s it gonna be?”

Mr. Burr began his career as an announcer in 1967 for the Evans Mills speedway and worked to have the track re-opened in the late 1980s, when he was vice president of the W.B. Payne Insurance Co. in Lowville.

“John Burr will be missed by many but never forgotten for who he was and all he did,” Adirondack’s Facebook page said, documenting the moment of silence.

“I always wanted to be an announcer,’” said Mr. Burr in a 1988 interview, and in 2012, “I do this because I love every minute of it,”

Mr. Burr was known for his wealth of knowledge about the drivers including their background and records on tracks around the state, allowing him to never run out of things to say.

After feting his colleague in 2012, current Adirondack track announcer, Keith Zehr, said, “I’ve had a blast working with him. My career took off when I started working with John Burr.”

Since 1974, Mr. Burr has been more than just the voice of Lewis County Fair, according to current county Agricultural Society President Doug Hanno, he has been the driving force for “everything in front of the grand stand” and on the fair board since 1974.

With his dedication to all things county fair, Mr. Burr was inducted into the state fair association’s Hall of Fame in 2015; elected president of the New York State Association of Agricultural Fairs in 2011; and was named 2012 Fairperson of the Year by New York State Showpeoples’ Association, among others.

In a last-minute change this year, Mr. Burr was asked by Mr. Hanno to cut the ribbon marking the start of the Lewis County Fair, his last official duty.

“You’ll never find anybody to fill John’s shoes,” Mr. Hanno said, “He’ll be sorely missed.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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