The amazing legacy of Vic Kunze
For more than 20 years, the Kunze family has delivered autumnal entertainment and gourds to the hordes of fall-flavored treaters looking for some fun in Paso Robles from their pumpkin plantation, River K Pumpkin Patch.
Herb and Ginny Kunze moved to Paso Robles way back when, and brought some pumpkin seeds with them — as well as a pair of children, Vic and Valerie.
Pumpkins grew, and so did corn — and the kids.
Vic and Valerie worked their way through school and eventually back home to the farm, where Vic established the River K Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in 1996.
The family farm grew out of a 4H project, according to Valerie [Kunze] Reynolds.
“It is more than just a business,” Reynolds said. “We try to teach kids how to grow.”
While that may be true, Vic had other ideas — teaching kids how to have fun — and his corn mazes have been fun for 15 years.
According to Reynolds, Vic planted the corn in July, and when it got to be about three feet high he took a heavy duty mower and cut the design for the maze. The maze design could have been words or an actual picture.
“Unless you went up on the sky lift, you really would never know what it was. Last year Vic’s son Zak proposed to his girl friend by carving out the words ‘marry me’ in the maze,” Reynolds recalled. “He took her up on the lift and had the ring in his pocket.”
Reynolds’ fond memories don’t stop there.
“What I remember most about my brother was that he was always there for me,” she said. “He could fix anything and he always had a sparkle in his eye.”
Vic was also involved with various community organizations, including his role as president of the Central Coast Youth Football League for a decade. He was also a member of the Paso Robles Trail Riders, San Miguel advisory board, and Paso Robles FFA Boosters — yeah, he could work good too.
Maybe he got his work ethic from his parents, who at ages 85 and 83 still run the tractors at River K.
“They are out there on the tractor in 110-degree heat planting pumpkins,” Reynolds said of her parents.
This may be the last year for the River K’s corn maze, however. On May 3, 2017, Vic passed away unexpectedly and left a void at the farm that is not easily filled.
“He was the one who kept us alive,” Reynolds said. “He did all the repairs and electrical work. We had to pull together this year to make it happen.”
All good things come to an end, some say — but then again, this is Paso Robles and you never know what might happen.
One thing we know, is that Herb and Ginny are ready to open the gates at River K.
Located at 5670 N. River Road in Paso Robles, River K is open daily in October from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and groups can make a reservation to wander the maze after dark — call 805-441-3705.
Photos and video can be found on Facebook @riverkpumpkins, and remember that while Pioneer Day is famous for “leave your wallet at home,” at River K it is cash-only — so come prepared to enjoy.