Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, visited the Twin Cities on a blustery June day in 1990 at a time when the Berlin Wall had fallen and new hope emerged for better relations between the two superpowers.

Tens of thousands of Minnesotans filled the streets to cheer the Gorbachevs, who mingled with the crowds, shaking hands, and visited local businesses like the Tavern on Grand in St. Paul.

Gorbachev, the former Soviet president credited with ending the Cold War, died Tuesday at 91. Even today, his visit is remembered fondly in Minnesota and is a reminder of another uncertain time in relations between the United States and the former Soviet republic.

"It was a celebration. He had people cheering for him, and he basked in it. And we basked in being there," said Bruce Benidt, a Minneapolis public relations strategist and former journalist who wrangled the 2,000 reporters from around the world who gathered in the Twin Cities for the visit.

Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich had urged Gorbachev to stop in Minnesota on his way to California. The Soviet leader had just finished a three-day summit in Washington with President George H.W. Bush, inking an agreement between the two nations to virtually eliminate chemical weapons.

In Minnesota, the Soviet leader visited the Bloomington headquarters of Control Data, which was selling his country several supercomputers to improve nuclear power plant operations and safety. The sale came on the heels of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster four years earlier, which focused new attention on the antiquated Soviet-era technology.

Officials also announced the proposed $100 million Gorbachev Maxwell Institute of Technology. The institute was to be a mix of U.S., Soviet and European scientists tackling climate change and other international challenges and was to be located in the Twin Cities. The center never came to fruition, however.

A highlight of the trip was a visit by Raisa Gorbachev to the home of a typical American family. Steve and Karen Watson, with their four children, hosted the wife of the Soviet leader for tea and cookies at their south Minneapolis home near Washburn High School.

The Watson children have gone on to their own adult lives, but their parents are still there and hold vivid memories of the day.

"This was not a frivolous visit," Steve Watson said in March. "This had meaning and significance. In a way, it was critical to where they were at that time."

Staff writer John Reinan contributed to this report.