WDAY: The News Leader

Published December 02, 2013, 07:48 PM

60 on 6: Gorby

Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) - We still remember it as "Gorby-Mania."

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) - We still remember it as "Gorby-Mania."

It was 20 years ago that Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich stood in the principal's office at Moorhead High School and took a phone call.

It was from the Soviet Union, and it sent our region in "high-gear planning mode" for a visit from its president.

As part of our "60 on 6,” we take a look back at the historic seven hours.

The day at Moorhead High, May of 1990, started as just another photo op for Governor Rudy Perpich, but things changed quickly.

Rudy Perpich- Moorhead Governor: “This might be an answer to the question: Where is the phone? I better take it. “

When he was called to the principal's office for an urgent phone call, we followed him.

Perpich: “Hello, Mr. Ambassador. I will be better if you give us good news.”

Perpich: “We are excited and honored and will work hard to make it one of his best ever anywhere.”

The state of Minnesota went into overdrive. Who could imagine the leader of the Soviet Union coming here?

At the time, his efforts to transform his country made him one of the most admired men in the world. Americans loved him.

And so, with much fanfare, Gorbachev came to Minnesota. A cool, rainy June day… Thousands waited, homeowners welcomed him and to heck with Homer Hankees; the state had GorbaChiefs to hand out.

And it was more than a simple passing by or wave from a limo. The Gorbachevs got out of the car, and waded into the Minnesota crowds. We, in fact, walked alongside him.

“And I got a call on the two-way radio we had company coming on Sunday.”

And while this Farmington family prepared for a planned visit to this Minnesota farm, Gorbachev ran out of time, and the trip here was scrubbed. But the Soviet Leader did meet with hundreds of business leaders from around the Upper Midwest. His wife Raisa met with a Minnesota family.

Perpich: “That probably was in all my days in public office, that was one of the best.”

While Perpich was often called Governor Goofy, he was praised for inviting the Soviet leader and helping it actually happen, but the political high did not last long. Gorbachev watched as the Soviet Union fragmented into 15 Republics. He was forced to resign.

But Minnesota will never forget the summer day when the Cold War history and Gorby came to town.

Gorbachev's wife, Raisa, died from cancer in 1999.

The former Soviet leader has made several visits to the United States since his visit to Minnesota.