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Short-film exhibition coming to Westbury

Doug LeClaire, a Westbury native, created the Westbury

Doug LeClaire, a Westbury native, created the Westbury Film Festival, which will be held at the Piazza Ernesto Strada. (Aug 10, 2013) Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

Asbury Shorts has come a long way from its beginnings in a church basement.

The short-film exhibition later moved to a Westbury middle school auditorium in the early '80s before making its way to larger venues -- such as Central Park.

Despite its rise, when the event comes to Westbury's Piazza Ernesto Strada Friday night, the mantra will be the same as when it began: "No long speeches, no awards, and most important of all, we'd rather have malaria than do a Q&A."

Exhibition co-creator Doug LeClaire, 57, who grew up on Asbury Avenue in Westbury, is returning the film screenings to the village Friday night. The event will have added meaning for Westbury village leaders, who are seeing a years-in-the-making revitalization effort bear fruit.

Just blocks away, a nearly $10 million Tudor-style theater that was once condemned by village officials is expected to open in September as a state-of-the-art performance center. Seeing potential, Peter Cavallaro, Westbury mayor, developed the Greater Westbury Council for the Arts, which now has 150 volunteers, he said.

The exhibition is "the very first public event that is sponsored by the arts council," Cavallaro said

Playing at The Piazza, once a condemned gas station, will be a marked difference from the event's early days.

"It was a party," recalled LeClaire. "It was a gathering of people, no ticket charge, a free-for-all, with homemade lasagna and coolers of beer."

The show he and two classmates at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury created is "much more polished," he said.

Cablevision, which owns Newsday, is an event sponsor.

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