In years past, it has been round, sometimes square, often rectangular.
It has featured bright colors, or stylized animals or joyful revelers.
And for 18 years, it has started the countdown to Akron’s pre-eminent New Year’s bash.
We’re talking about the unveiling of the new First Night Akron admission button, the lapel accessory that gives the wearer access to a variety of family-friendly downtown venues and activities on the last night of the year.
This year, thousands of partygoers ringing in 2014 will be wearing a top-hatted green owl on a background of exploding fireworks, the design of Akron artist Dave Szalay.
The artwork was selected by a committee of previous button artists.
Szalay, who teaches graphic design and illustration at the University of Akron, has worked in the field of visual communications for 28 years.
His winning design involves advanced digital painting and drawing while being reminiscent of vintage 1950s advertising and picture book art.
He said he submitted three concepts to the judging panel, but it was his wife, Krista, who suggested the owl as the subject of his third entry.
“The owl ended up being a great character to represent the spirit of a nighttime New Year celebration in Akron. Owls are nocturnal and associated with insight, wisdom and protection,” he said. “Winter is prime time for spotting owls, and Northeast Ohio is one of the best places in the country to do so. Anyone who sees an owl in the wild is pretty lucky because they are stealthy.
“I hope that spotting this year’s First Night owl brings everyone good luck for the coming year,” he added.
The $10 buttons are on sale at www.firstnightakron.org. Children under 10 are admitted to the event free when accompanied by a button-wearing adult.
Beginning Nov. 29, the buttons also will be available at Acme Fresh Markets, some FirstMerit Bank branches, the Akron Beacon Journal customer service desk, Akron Civic Theatre box office, Angel Falls Coffee in Highland Square, Carolyn’s Cupboard in Wadsworth, Gasoline Alley in Bath, The Library Shop on Main, Lock 3 and NOTO boutique.
Buttons may also be purchased at the Downtown Akron Partnership office in Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St.
This year, 10 venues will feature more than 80 experiences: music, dance, theater, interactive art and projects for all ages, and all connected by free Metro bus rides.
The evening will kick off at 6 p.m. and end with a fireworks show at midnight.