Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia - Theta Upsilon Chapter, Delta State University - Cleveland, Mississippi

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The auditorium after the fire.Abandoned School Set Ablaze: Fraternity Fundraiser Jeopardized
by Chris Hartfield, The Delta Statement

Imagine your Labor Day weekend was capped off by seeing an abandoned private school ablaze while en route to a dove hunting expedition.

This was the scene on Sunday September 6, as a member of the Bolivar County Emergency Response Team drove down Highway 446 in Skene.  The fire at the old Bayou Academy building was reported early Sunday morning.  When the Bolivar County Fire Department arrived, the auditorium area of the property was completely engulfed.

"I wasn't the one on the call," said Lee Tedder, member of the department, "but our men said that the entire auditorium was completely destroyed.  The wooden chairs, stage, and drop ceilings had been totally burned up."  The fire was apparently hot enough to bend some of the steel support beams in the auditorium.  Tedder said that when the firefighters arrived, the blaze had been going for an extended period of time.

"It had to have been arson," Tedder remarked.  "There was no electricity in the building and there hasn't been for a while."  There are no suspects in the alleged arson as of yet. 

Delta State University's Theta Upsilon chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia holds its annual Haunted House at the abandoned school.  They have done so for the past seven years.  One of the fraternity's biggest fundraisers, the Haunted House, is a three-night event that draws anywhere from 200 to 300 customers from the Cleveland area.  As talk of the fire and its effects circulated around campus, many wondered if and how the blaze would affect the annual function held by Phi Mu Alpha.

Chapter president Joe B. Raymond III commented on the damage done to the property, "We had already started planning, mapping and staging this year's Haunted House.  The damage from the fire will definitely cause a hindrance to our plans.  We'll have to work a lot harder than we had foreseen in order to make the event happen."

Although harried by the fire and its wrath, Raymond remained optimistic about the fraternity's annual fundraising event.  "It is definitely going to take a lot more work than in years past, but it is nothing that can't be accomplished.  The customers obviously will not start in the auditorium as they did last year, so they won't know what to expect.  It actually may come as a positive influence on the event, which is one of our biggest fundraisers.  Hopefully, when the proverbial dust settles, we'll have the best Phi Mu Alpha Haunted House to date."

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