Lookback: Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's historic 1990 visit to Minnesota
(FOX 9) - News agencies in Russia are reporting that former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has died at the age of 91.
Gorbachev oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union and won the Nobel Prize for his efforts in ending the Cold War. The same year he won the Nobel Prize, he also made an appearance in Minnesota, as part of a trip to the United States.
Gorbachev with his wife Raisa made the trip in June of 1990 to meet with business and agricultural leaders in the state, with Minnesota trade officials hoping to build ties with the Soviet Union. Officials from Hormel, Land O'Lakes, Honeywell, and Cargill were scheduled to meet with the Russian leader.
The visit followed a days-long summit in Washington D.C. between Gorbachev and President George H.W. Bush.
Connection to Tavern on Grand
At Tavern On Grand in St. Paul, it's all about the walleye. But the restaurant's claim to fame came when it served its signature ingredient to a visiting foreign dignitary 32 years ago.
"It was a really big deal. It was one of the things that cemented Tavern On Grand into the Grand Avenue community because we hadn't been around for very long at that point," said manager Eric LeMay.
LeMay says contrary to popular belief, Mikhail Gorbachev never stepped foot in the restaurant.
But when his stepfather, original owner David Wildmo, heard the soviet leader was going to be served fish from Wisconsin during a luncheon at the governor's mansion, he made sure walleye, the state fish of Minnesota, from his restaurant replaced it on the menu.
"We're proud of that history and being able to welcome him to the midwest," said LeMay.
"The whole state and the region focused on the excitement of that day. Gorbachev's arrival was a big deal. The streets were lined with people to welcome him. It was a community event," said long time lobbyist Larry Redmond.
Redmond was one of the main organizers of Gorbachev's stop in Minnesota.
He says in addition to official events like meeting with regional business leaders, the Soviets also visited several garage sales where they loaded up on items to bring back home because they were more affordable than at any store.
"Blue jeans. Black clothing. Anything with any American reference on it. They would buy anything like anyone would buy at a garage sale. People buy different things," said Redmond.
Redmond says the Gorbachevs entire visit to the Twin Cities only lasted for about 7 hours, but it convinced other world leaders to do the same.
"It spoke to the significance of Minnesota and the greatness of Minnesota," said Redmond.