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R Factor to bring musical variety to YMCA Cruise Dinner

WORTHINGTON -- Emil Campbell admits he has been around the block a few times, but his storied career hadn't taken him to Worthington.

Until now.

Campbell and his band, the R Factor, will be the featured entertainment at the 28th Annual YMCA Cruise Dinner on May 31.

"We've been around for about 20 or 25 years," said Campbell, the music director for the R Factor. "Over the course of that time, we've accumulated a lot of material and a lot of songs. Each singer knows a couple hundred songs.

"We've been around the block a few times."

The R Factor is based out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

"The band was originally called the Rupert's Orchestra out of Minneapolis," Campbell explained. "It was part of a chain of nightclubs/upscale restaurants. There was one here and there was one in Chicago, there used to be one in Atlanta and there used to be one in St. Louis. Back in the early '90s, the chain folded. I took over the band and changed the name."

Campbell and the R Factor have played with or provided backup for people like the Beach Boys, Celine Dion, the Temptations, Tony Bennett and Hall & Oates.

"We are a dance band. We are a variety show dance band," Campbell said. "We do a little bit of everything. We'll do anything from Frank Sinatra to Tony Bennett to Michael Jackson to Prince to Guns N Roses to AC/DC, you name it. We go back and forth. We do some of the Top 40 stuff, like Usher and Taylor Swift, and some of the up-and-coming talent."

Having a variety of singers allows the band to play just about anything.

"All of our musicians are studio musicians," Campbell said. "The band is compiled of a lot of professional cats. We carry an entourage of musicians where we learn specific tunes because we do so much private stuff. We put them in our library when we do all these events; the people who want us to play get to pick the songs."

In fact, Worthington Area YMCA CEO Andy Johnson and his staff have made song suggestions for the evening.

"What they asked us to do was to go through their song list and highlight some things we'd like to hear," Johnson said. "I had all the staff and some volunteers go through that and check their top 40 to 60 songs they'd like to see."

The R Factor will bring a full band that will include a horn section, featuring saxophones and trumpets.

"We're looking to provide a different type of entertainment each year," Johnson said. "Name recognition is certainly the key. That's hard in an area like ours, so I was looking for something I think will be high-quality, will be entertaining and will engage the crowd. It will be something all groups will enjoy. R Factor fits that bill."

While the entertainment is often the center of the evening, the whole night is focused upon raising funds to help youth programs and to provide scholarships for members at the YMCA.

"As the Y continues to grow and serve more people, the needs in order to do that continue to grow as well," Johnson said. "We have to increase our ways of fundraising, so it is extremely important.

"We do receive some United Way funding, which we are very fortunate to get, and we also have our Strong Kids Campaign, but this is a supplement to those two efforts -- to make sure we are able to continue to subsidize all the youth programming, and also provide scholarships to kids and families."

As always, one person will win a vacation as part of the festivities. There are second-, third- and fourth-place prizes as well.

The cruise dinner will be at the Event Center -- the second big happening at the new facility.

"Having us being the next big event, it's another opportunity to be in and see this great facility," Johnson said. "It probably won't be a week or two after we get done with this, and we're going to book for next year and get the entertainment set up and get ready to go. You're going to want to get your place there. I hope there is that kind of demand; people do need to support this. This is going to be a great venue for us."

Silent auction

Another way the YMCA raises money on the night of the event is through a silent auction.

This year, the auction will be a little different. Johnson came across a company who will run the auction for the YMCA and create a high-tech atmosphere.

"They have a site that will put our auction online three to five days prior to the event," Johnson said. "So we will start letting people know you can go to the YMCA website -- click on the link and you'll go right to this website. You can start bidding before you even get there. Or, you have a buddy in Minneapolis that would love to have one of these items -- he can start bidding from anywhere."

The items will still be on display that night, but people won't be writing bids on a sheet of paper like in years past. This time, bidding can be done from a phone. A website will be provided for smartphones. All phones will be able to bid through text messages, and there will be iPads available that night as well.

"Everything will be done from a cell phone or a computer," Johnson said. "People who have smartphones will register with these folks, and we'll get a link and be able to do it on their phone. It updates you when you get beat out or when you've won."

The company has also brought some additional items to be auctioned.

"I'm getting a Minnesota Vikings helmet autographed by the Purple People Eaters," Johnson said, referring to Minnesota greats Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen. "We are going to have an autographed framed photo of Brett Favre from Green Bay, Jets, Vikings. We are going to have autographed baseballs by Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, and another one that is autographed by the first 11 500 home run hitters."

Johnson is grateful to the local businesses who have donated items.

"The local businesses have done a great job of supporting us," he said.

To get tickets, contact the YMCA at 376-6197. People are encouraged to get tickets as soon as possible.

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Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.