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Pathway to the future

If they do their homework over the next decade or so, some of today’s David City elementary and middle school students may find themselves solving real-world problems and creating the materials and machines that improve our quality of life.

If that is the case, they might see this past weekend as a launch pad.

This past week 24 students got some hands-on exposure to circuitry, robotics and structural design. Students who had finished third through eighth grades had a chance to attend the six engineering, robotics and computer coding summer camps put on by the Nebraska Public Power District.

The focus of the camp was Engineering Pathways, which is an NPPD program. The camps are part of The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Lab developed by NPPD as an educational outreach program. The lab lays the building blocks for possible careers in public power while allowing students to get up close to technology.

Students got in groups and went to different stations. Their tasks ranged from testing wind turbine designs to building electrical towers. Other stations focused on circuitry and basic robotic programming.

Barb Hart, the elementary media specialist and elementary curriculum and assessment coordinator for David City Public Schools, went from group to group, lending a hand when it was needed.

“Students were generally quite engaged with the various projects and some team members demonstrated leadership skills that really helped their groups make great progress,” Hart said. “I see that students clearly need opportunities to engage in direct experiences with design challenges and materials to develop the problem-solving skills and teamwork skills to be prepared for their work future, which will become increasingly more technical.”

The open room allowed students to brainstorm and create ideas for the station instead of just learning what is already being done. Some seemed frustrated at the trial and error process, which sent them back to the drawing board. But it helped them understand why some materials and designs worked better than others.

“Kids need chances to envision a product and use available materials to create it, test it and refine it,” she said. “In the process they develop skills, for example, perseverance and responding appropriately to failure, that generalize to many other areas of their lives.”

Bud Comte, David City businessman, musician, dies at 86

Bud Comte, 86, longtime feed mill owner and musician, died Thursday at Butler County Health Care Center.

He was well known out in farm country, in the recording studio, and on the concert and dance stage.

It was just last September that he was inducted into the Sokol Omaha Polka Hall of Fame, though his career spanned a wide variety of styles in recording and performing.

He grew up in a musical family in Springfield, where he graduated from high school in 1948.

At age 10, he played drums for a combo from Louisville, alongside his dad, Albert, Paul Luken and Evi Collins. At age 12 he got his first instrument – drums. He was a member of the school band and in 1946, at age 15, he took six lessons on trumpet.

In his early years it was Bud on drums, sister Virginia on piano, and dad Albert on marimbas and fiddle, playing for every local banquet in Springfield.

In 1954, Bud’s Dance Band, as it was called, was formed, and later became the Bud Comte Orchestra. The first job was at Dance Island near Wahoo, and the last dance was at the Leiderkranz in Grand Island on New Year’s Eve, 1985. Through the 31 years, the 9-piece orchestra played in several states: Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota, as well as Nebraska.

In 1987, the band got together to play for daughter Renee’s wedding, and then in 1996 in conjunction with the Ruth Etting Award, the band reunited for the last time. Over the 31 years, 71 musicians worked on the band. Starting with the Combo from Louisville, Bud played for, or led the following bands: Ok Jones from Seward, Dinky Do’s, Tommy Helton Orchestra from Omaha, David City Players put together for David City events, Dennis Wesley, Ernie Kucera, as well as the Bud Comte Orchestra.

In 1966, named after his daughter, Renee, a sound studio was started in the basement of the family home. It was moved to the garage to accommodate the many recordings and productions that would follow. It was finally moved to the 4th Street location in 1989. Over the years, 361 records, 45’s, 8-tracks, cassettes, and CD’s were released.

In the early 1980’s, Comte along with Bob Palensky, formed the band Country With a Touch of Brass. The band played many county and state fairs, country venues in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Bud also developed and produced a TV show called Country Showcase for Channel 8 in Albion. It was a one hour show for 26 weeks.

Over the years he was inducted into the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame, Wyoming Country Music Hall of Fame, Nebraska Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 2015, he was inducted into the Nebraska Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an individual award and another for Renee Sound Studio.

When Comte was not busy with music, he and his family operated a feed mill in David City. Five Star Feeds was sold in 2015 to Henningsen Foods, ending one of the longest stretches of independent feed milling businesses in the area.

Following his Army service in Korea, Comte moved to David City and started a family.

He started as a butcher, but  moved on to a job he thrived at: feed salesman. He started at the Wright Mill, a flour mill that was converted to a feed mill. He joined Merlin (Bud) Wright, a former WWII bomber pilot.

He traveled the roads in the company pickup, learning the feed business from the producers and the product suppliers. Soon a Volkswagen van replaced the pickup and Bud was hauling supplements to the customers and building relationships for the mill.

At the time of the mill’s sale, Comte said: “Back in the 1970s we had a nice normal retail business separate from Henningsens. People had 20 chickens, 50 hogs and 100 cows.”

However the farm crisis of the 1980s and the growth of large confinements began the rapid decline of small hog farms, and the operations that survived had to get bigger, both in acres planted and animals fed.

Meanwhile the percentage of the mill's feed going to hen houses working with Henningsen grew, keeping the mill busy. Bud’s sons, Roger and Ryan joined the business in the early 1980s. An older mill facility closed in 1987 and Wright Feed Mill formally became Five-Star Feeds. Responding to a local clothing store’s closure, the business added a line of clothing and the name became Five-Star Town and Country.

The feed mill had customers all over the region in the 1990s. The company forged ahead making feed for area farmers as well as the chicken houses that were popping up all over central Nebraska. Five-Star serviced a total of 18 birdhouses in all with the highest number of 15 houses operating at one time. Through the years, birdhouses ranged in size anywhere from 7,200 birds to 140,000 birds, and Five-Star was their food supplier, feeding more than a total of 1.7 million birds.

The Comte family celebrated the company’s legacy in its history, written by Bud’s daughter Renee Kovar.

"Instead, we choose to rejoice in what Wright Feed Mill and Five-Star Feeds has meant to this community. We are grateful for all the support we have received from friends and loyal customers, and we are proud of the many ways our company has strived to give back through the years, not only to our customers, but also to the schools, FFA and 4H clubs, and of course, to all the little sports players of this town that have worn Five-Star Feeds on the back of their jerseys and ball shirts."

Bud Comte was born on June 4, 1931 in Springfield, he is survived by his wife, Patricia Comte of David City. A funeral service is set for 10:30 a.m. Monday, July 3 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

Comte and his first wife, Patsy Ann Davis, raised four children: Roger (Tami) Comte, Ryan (Crysti) Comte, Renee Comte (Mick) Kovar, and Rick (Pam) Comte.

Courtesy Photo 

Bud Comte spent decades entertaining audiences and recording music at his David City studio, and he also operated one of the last independent feed mills in the region. He died last week at age 86.