Love, Northern style: Yellowknife husband drives 1,400 km to pick up KFC meal for wife

Many people have a wedding anniversary tradition, but few would go to the lengths Mike and Angela Hovak Johnston did for theirs - a 1,400 kilometre round trip journey, all in the name of their favourite fried chicken.

Mike and Angela Hovak Johnston began a KFC tradition at their wedding 15 years ago in Kugluktuk

Mike and Angela Hovak Johnston's wedding in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. The couple's KFC tradition began at their wedding, a consolation for husband Mike from wife Angela after she shot down his idea of getting married during the community's talent show. (submitted by Angela Hovak Johnston)

Most couples have a tradition when celebrating wedding anniversaries — a favourite restaurant, the exchange of gifts, or a return to a sentimental site. 

For Mike and Angela Hovak Johnston of Yellowknife, it's dining on Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The Kentucky Fried tradition began at the couple's wedding reception in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, 15 years ago. It began as a compromise — an olive branch from wife Angela to husband Mike in exchange for dropping another odd wedding request. 

Mike's idea? To get married at the talent show during the Nattiq Frolics, Kugluktuk's annual spring carnival.

"I figured we'd win first place," he said. "Me, and my wife, and the Justice of the Peace go up, and we'd get married."

The first-place prize, the couple remembers, was plane tickets — and the entire community would be at the event. A lot of people in attendance and a free trip sounded like a win-win situation for Mike.

But Angela said she wasn't going to have a talent show for a wedding. Instead: "I let him have his KFC.

The happy couple at their wedding in Kugluktuk. Angela says that the ceremony was overshadowed by the meal: 'Everybody that was invited to the wedding was more excited about the KFC than our wedding!' (submitted by Angela Hovak Johnston)

"We had to order it from Yellowknife, and at that time they could sell KFC frozen," she said. 

"Mike ordered 500 pieces. Everybody that was invited to the wedding was more excited about the KFC than our wedding."

Fifteen years later, the couple and their three sons now live in Yellowknife, and the KFC-on-anniversary tradition has survived. However, with the only KFC restaurant in the capital closing down last year, they had to come up with a solution.

"This year was the most difficult one to plan," said Angela. "But my husband didn't hesitate. He wanted to drive all the way to…

"High Level," said Mike, finishing her sentence. "So during March break, me and my son got up early one morning, drove 700 kilometres, picked up 15 buckets of KFC and drove 700 kilometres back — in one day."
The happy couple sit with the KFC from Mike's High Level trip in the foreground. After factoring in gas from the 1,400 kilometre round-trip, Mike estimates the anniversary meal cost about $600. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

According to Mike, his unusual to-go order got him a bit of a weird look in High Level, Alta.

"When I ordered 15 buckets, they said: 'uh, it might take a little while,'" he said. "I said: 'no problem,' so they cooked it up right away."

Mike even asked for frozen chicken, but the chain wouldn't play along.

"They said: 'Everything's fresh here. If you want frozen chicken, go to the grocery store,'" he said, with a laugh.

The cost? According to Mike, 1,400 kilometres worth of gas, plus the purchase of 15 buckets of chicken and popcorn chicken came up to about $600.

But was it worth it?

"Every penny," said Mike. "We have to keep traditions alive. Fifteen years. Why stop now?"