The word crowd (as a noun, not a verb), can be fairly negative; it implies, if not disorderliness, then at least people being packed together. Sometimes that’s positive (like if a stadium or a concert draws a crowd), but in the context I’m writing for, it is not.
So what’s a positive version of the word crowd? Something that implies lots of people, but not in a negative way. I’ve looked at many synonyms in various thesauruses, but most are either negative, or have strange connotations — throng, congregation, mob, horde. As you can see, none of them really fit.
Here’s a sample sentence for the way I would like to use the word:
A crowd gathered, to enjoy the sunshine and company.