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Grove Legacy Runs on Welcoming Spirit, Tradition


Annie Leech, Wesla’s daughter, and Sam, the friendly Lab mix. Photos by Andy Knef.

What are the values that energize the Grove more than high-definition TVs, chandeliers and tasty barbecue? Family and enduring friendship.
Two best friends, attorneys, and Ole Miss graduates, have extended a Grove tent legacy that started with their fathers in the early 1980s and have carried it with class into this storybook 2014 Rebel football season. “We do things kind of old school — provide the chicken and the flowers and let everyone else fill in,” said Jackson lawyer Wesla Sullivan Leech, whose father, Wesley, No. 86, played football at Ole Miss from 1959-62 and started the Grove tailgating custom with his best friend, Phil Hall, in the early 1980s. “We’ve moved our location when Ole Miss built the Grove stage. Our Dads would sit outside the tent and rate the pretty girls as they walked by. Neither of them ever met a stranger.”
Smoke from the grill can’t obscure the good fellowship at the Grove tents run by Wesla Sullivan Leech and Helen Hall Kenwright.

Helen Hall Kenwright is the other half of the best-friend team that has kept the hospitality and fellowship flowing at their Grove operation. “I moved to Atlanta for a while and with little kids I had to take a hiatus from Groving, but with Wesla’s Dad passed and mine elderly, we’ve taken the tradition forward and never miss a game. And the great tradition at Ole Miss is why our daughters in both families have attended Ole Miss.”
Kenwright is also an attorney and says she and Wesla have been like sisters since meeting at Ole Miss. Kenwright is originally from Grenada and Leech is from Mendenhall, Miss. “We were in different sororities, but lived in the same dorm,” recalled the Roswell, Georgia, resident. Kenwright is proud to consider running the Grove Tents with Wesla a vocation more than a responsibility. “We welcome anyone who wants to stop by and over the years have entertained people from all over the country who identified going to the Grove at Ole Miss as a ‘bucket list’ priority.”
Leech and Kenwright both credit Prince Thompson, a former University facilities worker, who has diligently set up the family tents since they started.
So if you’re in the Grove near the Walk of Champions and see a friendly Black Lab named Sam outside of some tents with pretty flowers on the tables, No. 86 prominently displayed, pretty ladies doing the greeting and a warm, welcoming spirit of history, teamwork and camaraderie all around you, stop by for a bite of chicken. It’ll be worth your time.
Football championship ring of her grandfather Wes is a prize possession for Annie.

Andy Knef is editor of HottyToddy.com. You can contact Andy about this story at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com.

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