During the year 2003, a group of talented sculptors from various parts of the world gathered together in Pera, in the Algarve region of Portugal, to build the first major sand sculpture event. Some Portuguese artists, who wished to try to sculpt in this new medium, also joined them and the team created a set of sculptures under the open sky. Under a free theme, they created their pieces based on history, art, mythology, fantasy, imaginary machines and gears and some symbols of Portuguese culture, which they called The Land of Dreams. The resulting effect of The Land of Dreams aroused the curiosity of the general public and the festival was visited by hundreds of people, who were charmed and moved by the massive sculptures created only with sand. The creativity, skill and mastery of the artists were unanimously appreciated. Since then, the International sand sculpture festival, otherwise known as Festival Internacional de Escultura em Areia (FIESA), has been held in the Sand City, in Pera, the Algarve region of Portugal, every year.
Every summer the organizer of the cultural events of the festival, ProSandArt, creates a world of fantasy in the Sand City, the city of sand, using forty thousand tons of sand, in a construction area of over 15,000 square metres on a beach. ProSandArt are also the organizer of varied sand and sculpture events in Turkey and Argentina. But the Sand City festival is the largest sand sculpture event in the world. The participants transform the tons of sand in the huge area into several three dimensional titanic sculptures in great details and scenarios alluding to a theme.
Some of the said granular masterpieces, carved by more than 60 artists from all over the world, are even 12 feet high. Sand castles are traditional sand sculptures, but at the Sand Festival one may find any type of sculptures, that can be usually seen in stone or bronze. All the sculptures are accompanied by explanatory texts. After the sunset, as the arena of FIESA becomes illuminated, the Sand City changes its colour and hue and becomes the Land of Dreams. It completely changes the perspective on each of the sculptures, which in turn creates a mesmerizing effect on the onlookers.
Apart from the massive sculptures, the festival also includes events of music, dance, opera, circus, theatre and cinema.